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Book Review: Springbok Glory

The best memories are the good ones, the ones that stay with us even if the edge of their details becomes blurred.

This wonderful book by ardent rugby writer Stephen Nell is a book which recalls those memories, sharpens the details, gets the history right and adds information we have never had.

All of that makes it an excellent book.

There are ups and downs but the ups far outdo the downs .It starts in 1992 with readmission to Test rugby in 1992 and ends in 2012, a period of great scope for a rugby writer.

Nell has done the detail and the extra knowledge in a clever way – through interviews with people who were really, intimately there. And many of those interviewed are not only the ones who have spent years in rugby.

On readmission Louis Luyt talks, not about the process of unification, but about those first matches in 1992. Ant Strachan, the All Black scrumhalf for that Test talks and so does Danie Gerber, who was then considered too old by some.

Brendan Venter, Joel Stransky and Chester Williams talk about the 1995 World Cup with Williams nearly missed. The role Nelson Mandela played in Springbok rugby at time was clearly pivotal. Pieter Rossouw is fascinating about the try that beat the All Blacks in New Zealand in 1997.

Nick Mallett talks about his 1997 triumph at Parc des Princes and also about the successes and failures  of 1999. Robbie Fleck (and Mallett) speak about the huge win that ended Mallett's coaching of the Springboks.

Jake White is there to talk about his time as Springboks coach, including political interference in selection, and  Marius Joubert (and White) speaks about his hat-trick against New Zealand. There is the initially rickety relationship between White and Victor Matfield and conversation about that time with John Smit and Matfield.

The downs are certainly there – the playing of players 'of colour', the sad demise of Solly Tyibilika, losing 0-49 in Brisbane, the lead-up to the 2007 World Cup, White's battle to keep his job and Tim Noakes's advice on resting players. Then came Glory Round Two with the winning of the 2007 Wold Cup in France.

There is so much there.

Coaches Peter de Villiers and Gary Gold talk on their days, especially that amazing try by Ricky Januarie that won the Test in Dunedin's House of Pain and then later the win in Hamilton that gave the Springboks the Tri-Nations.

The 2011 disappointment is glossed over and then we are into hearing Heyneke Meyer and Bryan Habana talking.

It's a  lovely book – one to keep dipping into.

I wished it had an index.

How do you get a book? You go into a bookshop and buy one. It takes little effort but for Stephen Nell to produce one is an enormous effort of dedication and concentration. Let's hope that this just his first.

Title: Springbok Glory. Golden Moments in the Modern Era.

In Afrikaans:  Bokspronge – Goue oomblikke in Springbokrugby

By Stephen Nell

Published by Tafelberg

224 pages

Soft cover

2013

Illustrated with a 16-page photo section in colour

ISBN 978-0-624-05742-0

Review done by Paul Dobson

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