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Shamrocks to settle Kings Park score

SPOTLIGHT: When the Irish take the field against the Springboks at Kings Park on Saturday, it will only be their second-ever meeting in the Shark Tank.


Their previous encounter in Durban happened 43 years ago.

In 1981, the Shamrocks were also on a quest to salvage the tour and draw the two-Test series.

The Irish toured South Africa in 1981 after a twenty-year absence in the Republic.

The trip came on the back of a Five Nations championship in which they were widely considered the favourites but ended up with four defeats – having lost all their matches for the first time since 1977.

Despite condemnation from political and ecclesiastical sources, the Ireland Rugby Football Union honoured their promise to undertake a seven-match tour against multiracial sides and included twelve uncapped players as well as half a dozen former British and Irish Lions in the touring party.


Several Irish players had resigned from their posts when employers declined to grant leave of absence for the tour whilst others had no option but to simply declare their unavailability.

The union pressed ahead, insisting it did not take its touring decision lightly.

Of the seven matches played, the majority including both Test matches, were lost.

Injuries to two key players proved difficult to overcome.


John Robbie (later to become a non-capped Springbok) injured a shoulder in the first half of the opening fixture and only gained match fitness in the last few days of the tour while Ollie Campbell only played twice on tour, his replacement Mick Quinn having last played at international level in March 1977.

On May 30, 1981, South Africa hosted the first Test match against Ireland at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town.

This game was particularly significant, as Errol Tobias was the first black player to start a Test match for South Africa.

The Springboks won this Test 23-15.

The Springbok side included some of the biggest names in the sport’s history – with Naas Botha and Divan Serfontein as the halfbacks, Danie Gerber at centre alongside Tobias, Gysie Pienaar at fullback, with Gerrie Germishuys and Ray Mordt the wings.

Wynand Claassen captained the side, with Theuns Stofberg, Rob Louw, Kevin de Klerk, Louis Moolman, Ockie Oosthuizen, Willie Kahts, and Richard Prentis joining him among the forwards.

Ireland sent a depleted side, captained by Fergus Slattery.

Ireland would go on to lose the second Test, on June 6 at Kings Park in Durban, by 10-12 and return home winless in seven matches.


South Africa: 15 Gysie Pienaar, 14 Gerrie Germishuys, 13 Errol Tobias, 12 Danie Gerber, 11 Ray Mordt, 10 Naas Botha, 9 Divan Serfontein, 8 Wynand Claassen (captain), 7 Theuns Stofberg, 6 Rob Louw, 5 Kevin de Klerk, 4 Louis Moolman, 3 Ockie Oosthuizen, 2 Willie Kahts, 1 Richard Prentis.

Ireland: 15 Kevin O’Brien, 14 Freddie McLennan, 13 David Irwin, 12 Paul Dean, 11 Terry Kennedy, 10 Mickey Quinn, 9 Robbie McGrath, 8 Willie Duggan, 7 John O’Driscoll, 6 Jerry Holland, 5 Brendan Foley, 4 Fergus Slattery (captain), 3 Gerry McLoughlin, 2 John Cantrell, 1 Phill Orr.

Test results:

May 30, 1981: South Africa 23-15 Ireland (Newlands, Cape Town)
June 6, 1981: South Africa 12-10 Ireland (Kings Park Stadium, Durban)


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