Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
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From my travels I have collected many photos; had them sent to me or saved them, because, well, behind most of them there is a good story!
8 June 2014
The mighty Colin Meads of King Country New Zealand, who was the symbol of everything that was tough about rugby in the 1960s and '70s. Here he is with his upper body covered in plaster playing with his young son. Weeks earlier near his farm Meads had suffered a broken back after a motor vehicle crash. A matter of months later he had recovered sufficiently to play full international games again, though his All Black days were over. Read more »
3 June 2014
Some people journey to Jerusalem or Mecca or other Holy places. Here is Keith Quinn at his personal 'place of pilgrimage'; at the grave of William Webb Ellis at Menton, Southern France. It serene place where one can reflect whether the man buried there really did start the game of rugby in 1823. Read more »
1 June 2014
In the 1950s when the big test matches were played it was common for air planes to fly over the grounds dragging advertising slogans. This gave the opportunity for wonderful photographs to be taken. This one was taken in 1959 when officially it was 57,000 people attended the All Blacks v British Lions in Christchurch. Note the packed crowd on the embankment (right hand side) but seated fans on the ground in front of the bank. Read more »
the 1906-07 All Black fullback), Ernest Edward 'General' Booth was born. He was nicknamed after William Booth, the founder and first General of the Salvation Army. After touring Great Britain with the 1905-06 New Zealand team E.E.Booth later became a rugby writer and was one of the first touring rugby correspondents. He travelled with the 1908-9 Australian team to Great Britain. Later still he gained notoriety (in the strictly amateur game of the time) when he was hired as a professional rugby coach by the Southland Rugby Union.
Transvaal and South Africa
29 internationals for South Africa 1993-96
The Springbok flanker who had a relatively short time at the top in test rugby, but who played a huge role in the game in a number of ways. Francois Pienaar is remembered best for receiving the 1995 Rugby World Cup from his President, Nelson Mandela, after winning the dramatic final for South Africa on Ellis Park in 1995. In another completely different way, by his actions, Pienaar also played a significant role in the prevention of rugby going to the rebel professional World Rugby Corporation in the same year.
Pienaar first came into the Springbok team in 1993 against France. He was made captain from the very start of his tests, a rare feat (only Basil Kenyon and Des van Jaarsveld had also done that for South Africa). Still, Pienaar did have a paltry total of experience, just 16 tests, when two years later, he was charged with the task of leading the Springboks into their first World Cup. Added to that was the pressure on him of not failing in a World Cup being played effectively in his new country. The whole of South Africa’s new ‘Rainbow Nation’ looked to Francois Pienaar and the coach Kitch Christie to bring home the gold.
And they certainly did. In an exultant moment for the South Africa nation, who were finding a new way forward, the win over New Zealand, by 15-12 in extra time, was massive lift for the new nation’s confidence. Given the years when South Africa had been scorned for its apartheid policies, what an image was created for the entire world to see when a young white man accepted the trophy from his black leader.
In that moment Francois Pienaar was guaranteed a lifetime’s recognition. He had played well in the tournament, he led his team superbly, had conveyed a confidence all the way through, to the whole country. Seconds after the final whistle he led his team to dipin prayers of gratitude, right in the centre-field at Ellis Park. In other words for the deeply religious country he did everything right.
Yet only months later he was embroiled in the greatest threat the amateur game of rugby had ever faced. The World Rugby Corporation had been formed to seek ways to change the structure of the world rugby scene and change it from its old amateur ways. The world’s top players were targeted with offers of money, contracted sums so large apparently, that they could not be refused. The WRC went hard at securing the South African players for a new world professional circuit. The WRC took the view that because they had won the World Cup South Africa must be the target to lead the new direction.
So the pressure went on to Francois Pienaar. He was offered huge sums to lead all of the other World Cup winners to the new monetary version of rugby. To be fair, leading All Blacks, Wallabies and British and Irish players were also being besieged by WRC and sign up. Pienaar though was the first to crack. He elected to stay with the counter-offer from Louis Luyt of the South African Rugby Union and with other collapses of confidence the strong bid by WRC failed. Had Pienaar gone with the new idea world rugby would have been vastly different. As it transpired the International Rugby Board sensing the groundswell and desires of modern attitudes within months, themselves, had changed the game from being all-amateur to being totally professional.
Francois Pienaar’s career at the top lasted one more year. He led the Springboks on the European tour in the first Springbok tour of the new era and in 1996 he took part in the first Tri Nations series with New Zealand and Australia. He international career ended when, still as skipper, he was carried off at Cape Town in the second test against the All Blacks.
He left the country soon after to become a player/coach at the prestigious Saracens Club in London.
In the Rugby World Cups 1987-2011 which final drew the biggest crowd?