Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
16 August 2014
Is this the best photograph ever taken of a rugby dive-pass? If it's not then show me a better one. This is the great Danie Craven playing for South Africa v New Zealand in the third test match of 1937 at Eden Park in Auckland. Some old historians claim Craven 'invented' the dive-pass for a halfback in the 1930s but in fact it was first used to best effect by an earlier Springbok half, by the name of Dauncie Devine - in the South African team which played New Zealand in South Africa in 1928.
Graham Mourie's touring team was beaten 12-0 by Munster in Limerick; the first win by any Irish team over the All Blacks. And poems, songs, books, films and reunions followed over the years.
These games have become an anachronism in modern rugby. ‘B’ internationals between second – or ‘B’ teams - of countries were played mostly in the second half of the 20th century. The British, Irish and French were the countries that mostly embraced the idea. For a time, some of the hardest games of each European season came in the international ‘B’ matches. The Wales v France ‘B’ teams, in particular, had some robust encounters between 1970 and 1989 when they met annually.
Internationals involving ‘B’ teams were never as popular in South Africa, Australia or New Zealand, though each dabbled with the concept of fielding a ‘second’ national team at some stage.
South Africa actually used to call its ‘second’ selection the ‘Junior’ Springboks. Australia fielded a ‘B’ team for the first time in 1988 when it met New Zealand. In 1991 New Zealand ‘B’ met Australia ‘B’ in Brisbane. New Zealand won an exciting match 21–15.
In 1992 England B toured New Zealand, playing two ‘tests’ against a New Zealand second team that was called the ‘New Zealand XV’.
Modern marketing phased out the concept of ‘B’ games. In the 1990s they were replaced by ‘A’ internationals. The new concept was a marketers way of enticing the paying public to believe they are not seeing second-rate players in action.
So the short history of ‘B’ teams came to an end. Ironically, this was followed by the decision of many countries, led by Wales, for economic reasons, to not even field an ‘A’ team any more.
What was different about the British Columbian winger Denny Veitch who played against the British and Irish Lions in Vancouver in 1966?