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Book Review: The Bennie Osler Tour

Hans Saestad is prolific – and than heavens for it.  He is a boon for South African rugby, painstakingly and entertainingly recording the past with the intention of recording all Springbok tours and tours to South Africa that have not been recorded in a book. His work makes us so proud of our rugby,

This is his fifth book, following the 1993 Springbok's tour, the 1997 B&I Lions' tour to South Africa, the 1921 Springbok tour to New Zealand and England in South Africa from 1972 onwards. This book deals with the 1931-32 tour to the UK and Ireland, and again it is a special book.

It is special for its written content and special for its illustration, special for the insights it brings and for the success it records as the second Springbok tour to achieve a Grand Slam of victories over the Four Home Unions, the second in a consecutive series of four such victories.

It's always good to learn and this book teaches us much about the tour – the foul weather, the criticism of the team, the dominant role played by the enigmatic genius of the captain, Bennie Osler. It has fresh information, including the tour diary of Floris Venter, a wing on the tour.

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." That's the famous opening line of LP Hartley's novel The Go-Between. Look at the illustrations in Saestad's book and you realise that rugby in 1931 was a remarkably different game. They did things so differently  Just look at a line-out and realise how true that is., The players' [physiques were different and they looked so different.

Look, too, at how different touring was. The captain the coached, the players were unpaid, the hosts with hospitable and mixing was free and they did things like sightseeing, even going down a coal mine in Wales. They met the King of England.

One little incident would amuse those who watch modern scrummaging and the feeding of the scrum. In one match the referee took time out to explain to Danie Craven how to put the ball into a scrum.

The overriding personality was Bennie Osler, the captain, who was replaced as captain for the 933 series with the Wallabies. But the last sentence of Saestad's book, a quotation from The Times of London puts a lot of it into perspective: "One will always think of the Osler as a great conductor of a band that his cool genius also made great. Without him the South Africans might have developed into a more brilliant team, but it is doubtful if they would have won more than one international game." They won all four and lost only one other match,

This really is a book worth having, treasuring and reading.

Saestad has produced the book and responsible for its distribution. There are only 100 copies printed and few left for sale. You won't get better value for money.

E-mail address: hanz@absamail.co.za

Phone: 082 5562245

Title: The Bennie Osler Tour. The Third Springboks in Britain 1931-32.

By Hans Saestad

Published by the author

180 pages

Hard cover

2013

Illustrated throughout in colour

ISBN 978-0-620-55870-9

By Paul Dobson

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