From Memory.....the 1955 team

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Mar 21, 2020, 14:53

As I lay awake last night thinking about this this awful lack of sports, it occurred to me it’s 65 years since the great 1955 series against the Lions. One of the iconic Lions teams shocked South Africa out of it’s sense of rugby invulnerability in a series of beautiful games. But we came back to share the spoils with our own great team.

Shezza has recently outed my failing memory, so as a little test I started to recall the names and without referencing anything. Some I’m sure about but the forwards are a bit more hazy. Here they are from memory for the second test after the dropping of Jack van der Schyff:





Von Vollenhoven




Van der Merwe



Du Randt





I’ll score myself presently. But how much more compelling was that series than more recent rugby. As a boy of 7 it was the awakening of my rugby soul, flaming  an interest in the game that never flagged, even through the years I couldn’t find any rugby and relied on week old clips in letters from South Africa.

I hope we get some rugby soon as a sign that all’s right with the world.

Mar 21, 2020, 15:19

My rugby awakening was Billy Beaumont’s Lions tour to SA

I remember collecting both teams portrait and profile cards in matchboxes I think and sticking them in an accompanying book.

I went to PE to watch the Lions play EP and remember being struck by how beautifully red their jerseys were

I recall their much vaunted frontrow comprising Price, Wheeler and Cotton, with the likes of Ray Gravell and Ollie Campbell on board amongst the backs

That was 1980 so I was 11

Mar 21, 2020, 15:23

So it’s 2 mistakes and one spelling mistake......Klaasen is Claassen. Steven Fry was our open side flank and even though Lochner played number 8, that was in the 3rd test...not the second.

A team with some great players Von Vollenhoven and Rosenberg became league heroes. Claasen is one of our great locks and Bekker is mentioned in all time Bok teams. Briers was almost unstoppable in this series....a powerhouse like Gert Muller.

The weakness was probably at half back where Cliff Morgan was the dominant player in most of the series, although Ulyate took over with the boot in the 4th test. But the Lions had plenty of other greats.....Butterfield and Davies in the centres....and an old acquaintance Tony O’ Reilly on the wing. 

Mar 21, 2020, 15:25

Nice one Moz

Those were the days of proper tours

I see that 1980 Lions side played 18 matches on that tour

Mar 21, 2020, 15:34

Time for a bit of nostalgia! Thanks for those memories Dave, perhaps others may care to join in.

 I missed most of the late seventies and eighties rugby and watched football teams like the great Pittsburgh Steelers with Lambert and the steel curtain and the Bears with the great Walter Payton. Payton would have been the best  centre to ever play the game.....incredibly powerful and fast with a 2 yard step. Now sadly gone.

But after we came back into the game and the internet provided a feast of rugby, I watch little American football. In the absence of rugby we take what we can get in life.

Mar 21, 2020, 15:38

One observation. Eastern Transvaal played with flaming red jerseys like the Lions in those days. We lived in Springs and they were at the Pam Brink I saw them often. Dippies Dippenaar was the hero, legend among the kids was Dippies could never be tackled by just one man, too elusive!

Mar 21, 2020, 17:08

I can remember some of the tests that year, but did not go to the Newlands test - my dad and his pals did.  He always was a Rosenberg fan and told us often "A Springbok team without a Jewish player in the backline is not worthy being called a Springbok team". 

Mar 21, 2020, 18:52

Hansie Briers (N Tvl) and the great Chris Koch (Boland) were outstanding as well as Salty du Randt.

Do you recall the year that Tom von Vollenhoven signed for St Helens?

I recall a photo of the 1952/3 test in Dunedin (NZ) which shows Jaap Bekker covered from head to toe in mud trying to charge down a kick.

Tommy Gentles and Clive ..... were have the years gone.

Jeff Butterfield, Cliff Morgan, and Tony O'Reilly what fantastic players they were.

Mar 21, 2020, 20:12

If memory serves me, von Vollenhoven signed in 1958, but it could have been earlier.

Mar 21, 2020, 21:20

My memory of the best rugby side ever on a wet and rainy Newlands, Lions 1974...drenched to the bone, beat the Springboks, 12-3.

JPR Williams,Tom Grace, JJ Williams, Richard Milliken, Ian McGeechan, Phil Bennett, Gareth Edwards, Mighty Mouse Mc Laughlin, Bobby Windsor, Fran Cotton, Willie John Mc Bride, Gordon Brown, Fergus Slattery, Tom David, Andy Ripley / Mike Campbell-Lamberton.

Mar 22, 2020, 01:06

That Eastern Transvaal team went on to beat the British Isles 19-16  in the Pam Brink stadium in 1962.

Northern Universities also drew with the British Isles at that stadium in 1962 and the Boks won the series 3-0.

I see Willie John Mcbride was in the British Lions team then too,so he had two series loses here before winning that one in 74'

Mar 22, 2020, 01:25

We left in 1959, and I lost touch....never really been a reason to return, but it was a decent place in the day. 

Mar 22, 2020, 01:35

Willie John Mc Brides Lions side in 1974 won 3 tests and drew the last one. The last one was an utter disgrace by dirty play at PE, from both sides but instigated by sore SA losers and biased referee to be quite honest. The Lions deserved this one as well.

The Boks went into a flat spin and had absolutely no answer to this wonderful side.

I don't think there's been any side that comes close to this one.

The most perfect balanced side with stand out players like Gareth Edwards, JPR and JJ Williams, Phil Bennett, and a powerhouse pack led by Willie John.

Shear class, nothing else can describe it.

I was at varsity during this time and it's a huge pity that some of the younger posters here never witnessed this series.

Mar 22, 2020, 08:35

"Willie John Mc Brides Lions side in 1974 won 3 tests and drew the last one. The last one was an utter disgrace by dirty play at PE, from both sides but instigated by sore SA losers and biased referee to be quite honest. The Lions deserved this one as well."


The last test of that series was played at Ellis Park where the Springboks and Lions drew 13 all. It wasn't a particularly dirty game and the Springboks managed to prevent a clean sweep mainly because of a hometown ref called Max Baise rather than any dirty play.

The test in Port Elizabeth where the Lions made the famous 99 call (which basically meant take a swing at the opposition player closest to you) was the 3rd test of the series and the Lions won it very comfortbaly, 26-9. That was also the test match where the Springbok selectors hit the panic button and selected a 21 year old Free State Number 8 loose forward as the Springbok scrumhalf after some idiot on the selectors panel had the bright idea that the Springboks could do without a scrumhalf and needed more power in the forward pack.

Tit is wrong about the sequence of events but he is right when he says that was one of the greatest teams to visit our shores. I would say that the title of All Time Greatest Rugby Team to visit South Africa is out of Wille-John McBrides 1974 Lions and Sean Fitzpatrick's 1996 All Blacks.

Mar 22, 2020, 09:01

OK I got the last test venue mixed up with memory...such a long time ago and I only attended the first match at Newlands but yes I'm glad you acknowledged that side outgunned them all.

We had no TV then if I remember listening on the radio to the remaining tests.

I also agree with Fitzy's AB side in 1996. To be quite frank (without doubt) the 1995 WC was not won by the best side but by the big effort of the Boks and many other factors that went in our favour. It's a sensitive subject but WC's are strange animals and finals are even offs really.

Were we the best in the world ? I leave that one on your true assessment and conscience and if being honest and accurate you can keep that answer to yourself.

Mar 22, 2020, 09:53

I also listened to the 74" Lions tour on the radio and all I heard was Williams passes to Williams......they were flippen good.

The 1937 Spingboks under Phillip Nel was named the "Invincibles" the only Springbok team ever to win a series (2-1) in New Zealand including  a
(2-0) in Australia.
Watch this  try by Freddy Turner.......the ref sprints faster than the Boks to award it.

They also beat the touring British Lions in 1938.(2-1)

Mar 22, 2020, 16:07

I knew Louis Babrow from that 37 side....he sewed up my chin after I had tried to effect a tackle from behind. Supposedly the most potent backline prior to WW2:

Danie Craven

Tony Harris

Fred Turner

Louis Babrow

Flappie Lochner

Dai Williams ( every good Bok team has a Wallie)

Gerry Brand

Mar 25, 2020, 02:58

I wish I had some clips of that era. Rugby had a much better atmosphere from the 90s and further back. I wish I experienced it! 

Mar 25, 2020, 15:28

I recall having seen clips of a Dai Williams try....he looked awesome.

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