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Book Review: The Springbok Captains

In his day Doc Craven complained about rugby football's lack of literature, compared with other sports, and he saw this as a downside of the amateur principle which forbade a rugby man to receive money for writing a book.


In his day books were rare and you have only to glance at this book to rejoice that such a restriction isin the  past now.

A book of this kind is a great contribution to rugby's literature, especially South Africa's rugby literature, and once again we are reminded that South African rugby has the richest rugby history of all, woven into the story of the country..

History is above all about people and in this book the people are there from 1891 to 2015, the who stretch of Springbok Test rugby.

It is a book about people – not just ordinary people but the Springboks captains, special men with special honour and responsibility – all 56 of them from HH Castens to Fourie du Preez.

As no man was ever a Springboks captain all on his own, the book has the great players and administrators who were part of the Springboks captain's world.

It is a tale of great heroes and heroic deeds. Even the disappointments were heroic!


Edward Griffiths did the first two editions and for the third Jeremy Boraine of Jonathan Ball inspanned the contribution of Stephen Nell, a respected rugby writer who was once on the staff of Rugby365.

Griffiths, who was the CEO of the top English club Saracens at the time, was happy that Nell should extend his work and gave the new edition his stamp of approval.Book Review: The Springbok Captains

Nell's essential task was to tell the story of Bob Skinstad after his return to Test rugby, to add to the John Smit activities and then to introduce Victor Matfield and Jean de Villiers with the addition of Schalk Burger and Fourie du Preez whose captaincies are less extensively dealt because an unbudging deadline, but then their great achievements are in the text in any case.

At the end of the book there is a comprehensive set of statistics with the captains and their Tests. Then right at the end there is a name index, so important for a book of this nature.


The book is generally on sale and retails at about R250, so cheap for such a book.

Title: The Springbok Captains. The men who shaped South African rugby

By Edward Griffiths & Stephen Nell

Published by Jonathan Ball

640 pages

Soft cover

First published in 2001, revised and updated in 2006 and, for this edition, in 2015

Illustrated with black-and-white and colour

ISBN 9781868426713

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