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Some Springbok mysteries

The history of Springbok players is a rich one and so worth preserving. Some of it has been lost in time and so there are some mysteries. Here are a few.

It would be marvellous if anybody could add to information towards clearing up the mystery. Anything we add to our Springbok history is worthwhile.

If anybody has information could that person, PLEASE, send it to Paul Dobson: We shall publish what is sent in.

1. Did Heatlie repay the money?

Barry Heatlie was found guilty of 'theft by means of embezzlement and fraud'. He fled to Argentina, was later in prison in Cape Town, went back to Argentina and then returned to Cape Town in 1925. Doc Craven believed that he repaid the money he had stolen.

Three questions:

a. Did Villager supporters row him out to the ship bound for Buenos Aires?

b. Did he serve his sentence?

c. Did he repay the money?

2. Who, if anybody, was the 1906 error?

The Currie Cup of 1906 was used as trials to choose the first Springboks to tour abroad. The story goes that the selectors made a simple error in their selection. Two players in the Border side swapped jerseys because one, who was big, had a jersey that was too small. The selectors wanted to choose the big man but they went by numbers and the much smaller man was chosen.

Does anybody know if this was true? If so, who was the smaller man?

3. Why was Theo Pienaar made captain in 1921?

After all he did not play in even one of the Tests against the All Blacks when aged Boy Morkel was the captain.

Why was this so?

4. Why was the captaincy changed in 1933?

Majestic Bennie Osler had captained the Springboks on their Grand Slam tour of 1932-33. There were trials at Newlands for the 1933 team to play the Wallabies in five Tests. The team was staying at the Metropole Hotel in Cape Town where the team was pinned up on the hotel notice board. When Bennie came down to breakfast he saw that Phil Nel had been made captain in his place. Bennie went immediately to Nel to congratulate him. But why was the change made?

5. Why was Nel captain in 1937?

There seems little doubt that Danie Craven expected to be the captain of the 1937 Springboks and it came as a surprise when 35-year-old Nel was chosen.  

6. Why was Felix dropped?

In 1949 the All Blacks toured and Felix du Plessis was appointed captain of the Springboks. They won the first three Tests. There was one to play when Felix was dropped and Basil Kenyon made captain.

7. Why did Tudhope not stand in 1956?

Edgar Tudhope had been president of the SA Rugby Board when he made himself unavailable for re-election in 1956 and Doc Craven became the president.

8. What caused the Pickard-Du Rand fight at trials in 1956 that brought about Basie Vivier's captaincy of the touring team?

Salty du Rand was the favourite to captain the side. Jan Pickard was also a distinct possibility. They had a fight in the Avalon Hotel and Vivier was brought into the team and made captain.

9. What happened to Hopwood?

In 1965 the Springboks were to tour Ireland and Scotland. The selectors chose Doug Hopwood as the captain. The SA Rugby Board vetoed the appointment and chose Avril Malan in his stead. Doc Craven was overseas at the time and his vice-president, Kobus Louw, chaired the meeting. At the end of the 1965 Louw was voted off the executive. Jannie le Roux took his place.

What is the truth of all of this?

10. Biographies

a.  Paul Alexander Scott

His birthplace is given as New Brunswick. Is this in Canada?

His place and date of death are unknown.

He played for South Africa in 1896. Scott, the Pretoria outfitters, are related to him.

b. Joe Merry

He played for South Africa in 1891 and his name may well not have been Joe.

A lot is not known for sure:


date & place of birth:

date & place of death:

c. Hamilton, perhaps Frank, perhaps George Henry

He played in 1891

A lot is not known for sure:


date & place of birth:

date & place of death:

By Paul Dobson


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