Wales vs South Africa Down theYears
Wales have been tough opponents for the Springboks for 112 years. It was so in the beginning and more so in the last four years.
That is why the 1964 score – innocuous enough now – produced such a shock that it changed the way of doing things in Wales and indeed in all four of the conservative Home Nations.
It took Wales 93 years to beat South Africa. That is not as drastic as it sounds as they played only 13 times in those 93 years. In the 19 years since then they have played 21 times, and Wales have won four out of the last five and are ranked above South Africa’s on World Rugby’s rankings.
The 1964 match was the only time South Africa and Wales met outside of Wales in the first eight matches. Now they have played 34 times, 21 in Wales, 10 in South Africa and three on neutral grounds, twice at World Cups and then earlier this year in the rain in Washington DC. (Rain played a big part in early matches between the two countries and then, this year, shifted its torment to the Robert F Kennedy Stadium in Washington.)
In 1906 Paul Roos’s Springboks did what New Zealand had done the year before – toured the Four Home Unions. Wales had beaten the All Blacks in a match that is still as controversial as anything that has happened this 2018 November.
Paul Roos’s team lost to Scotland, beat Ireland and then went to Wales who were favourites to win, as they are probably again in 2018.
Wales had a great centre captaining the team – Gwyn Nichols whom they called Prince Gwyn. He had retired from rugby but was persuaded to come back for this match – his one bad match for Wales and the last time he played for his country.
He was up against the little genius Japie Krige, Witkoppie, at centre for South Africa and Krige had the beating of the great man as South Africa scored three tries and won 11-0 before a record crowd of 40 000 on a sunny day at St Helen’s Ground in Swansea near the sea.
In 1912 there were no tries on the Cardiff Arms Park quagmire when Dougie Morkel kicked a penalty goal in the first half in the 3-0 South African victory. Both sides came desperately close to scoring.
It rained again in 1931 and the wind blew. The Springboks won by two tries to one, 8-3, again at St Helen’s Ground with 55 000 packed into the ground in a year when Wales won the Grand Slam.
Twenty years later, in 1951, there were two great flyhalves – Cliff Morgan on debut and Hansie Brewis. Each side scored a try in the first half but it was a Brewis dropped goal in the second half that won the match 6-3.
On that tour, Chum Ochse was the hero of the Springboks’ visit to Wales. He played in six matches there and scored a try in each match with two each against Cardiff and Llanelli.
“No forward of any country had ever played more selflessly.”
That was John Billot, the Welsh Rugby writer speaking on Doug Hopwood, the Springboks No.8, after South Africa beat Wales in the rain and gale at Cardiff Arms Park in 1960 when the referee offered to call the match off with 15 minutes to go, and the River Taff burst its banks and flooded the field soon afterwards. Avril Malan, leading 3-0 and playing into the gale, elected to play on.
Hopwood, who had been suffering from back problems since trying weights as a schoolboy, picked up the muddy ball at the back of a scrum and drove forward. That earned South Africa another scrum, another Hopwood pick up and another drive at the waiting Welshmen. On and on it went and after the match Hopwood was taken to hospital and stayed there for some 15 days.
The only score in the match was a penalty goal in the first half. Wales put the ball into a scrum skew and Keith Oxlee kicked the ball up out of the mud and over. There was still an hour to play – Hopwood’s heroic hour.
In the 1960s Danie Craven persuaded the International Rugby Board to allow short tours. Scotland came first, then Ireland and then Wales in 1964. Wales played four matches, beating Boland and the Orange Free State and losing to Northern Transvaal and South Africa in their biggest defeat since Scotland beat them 35-10 in 1924.
South Africa scored three tries to nil. But the most talked-about score was a dropped goal from 50 yards out by Lionel Wilson, a player not given to such extravagance.
The huge effect of this humiliation was the changes made to Wales and the other three Four Nations countries. They decided that it was coaching that made the difference, and Ray Williams of Bridgend was the man who led the way to coaching structures. Before him, a rugby coach in the Home Unions had been a mode of transport.
This was the time when there was loud expression of abhorrence at apartheid with strong disapproval from sporting activities. This made its loudest noise during the Springbok tour to the UK and Ireland in 1969-70. They did not win a Test on the tour, losing narrowly to Scotland and England and drawing with Ireland and Wales in the Cardiff mud when in the last minute of the match the great Gareth Edwards slid over for the try that made the score 6-all.
Wales and South Africa did not play each other again until South Africa had accepted democracy for all. Then they met in 1994 and from then on into the professional era as international sides became clubs, financed by television and playing many matches.
In 1998 only a late knock-on prevented South Africa from notching up a century of points against Wales, scoring 15 tries to one, and then a day short of year later Wales beat the Springboks 29-19 at Millennium Stadium – two tries each but five Neil Jenkins penalties on the back of Wales’s forward dominance, Wales’s first Test win over the Springboks.
Results Down the Years, 1906 to 2018
1906: South Africa won 11-0 at Swansea
1912: South Africa won 3-0 at Cardiff Arms Park
1931: South Africa won 8-3 at Swansea
1951: South Africa won 6-3 at Cardiff Arms Park
1960: South Africa won 3-0 at Cardiff Arms Park
1964: South Africa won 24-3 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
1970: Draw 6-6 at Cardiff Arms Park
1994: South Africa won 20-12 at Cardiff Arms Park
1995: South Africa won 40-11 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
1996: South Africa won 37-20 at Cardiff Arms Park
1998: South Africa won 28-20 at Wembley Stadium, London
1998: South Africa won 96-13 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1999: Wales won 29-19 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2000: South Africa won 23-13 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2002: South Africa won 19-8 at Newlands
2002: South Africa won 34-19 at Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
2004: South Africa won 38-36 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2004: South Africa won 53-18 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2005: South Africa won 33-16 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2007: South Africa won 34-12 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2008: South Africa won 20-15 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2008: South Africa won 37-21 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2008: South Africa won 43-17 at Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
2010: South Africa won 29-25 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2010: South Africa won 34-31 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2011: South Africa won 17-16 at Westpac Trust, Wellington
2013: South Africa won 24-15 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2014: South Africa won 38-16 at Kings Park Stadium, Durban
2014: South Africa won at Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
2014: Wales won 12-6 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2015: South Africa won 23-19 at Twickenham, London
2016: Wales won 27-13 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2017: Wales won 24-22 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
2018: Wales won 22-20 in Washington DC