South Africa National Rugby Union Team
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South Africa National Rugby Union Team

South Africa
Shirt badge/Association crest
  • Springboks
  • Bokke
  • Amabokoboko
UnionSA Rugby
Head coachJacques Nienaber
CaptainSiya Kolisi
Most capsVictor Matfield (127)
Top scorerPercy Montgomery (893)
Top try scorerBryan Habana (67)
World Rugby ranking
Current1 (as of 2 November 2019)
Highest1 (2007, 2008, 2009, 2019, 2020, 2021)
Lowest7 (2017, 2018)
First international
South Africa 0-4 British Isles
(Cape Town, South Africa; 30 July 1891)
Biggest win
South Africa 134-3 Uruguay 
(East London, South Africa; 11 June 2005)
Biggest defeat
 New Zealand 57-0 South Africa
(Auckland, New Zealand; 16 September 2017)
World Cup
Appearances7 (First in 1995)
Best resultChampions, 1995, 2007, 2019

The South Africa national rugby union team, commonly known as the Springboks (colloquially the Boks or Bokke, and Amabokoboko),[1] is the country's national team governed by the South African Rugby Union. The Springboks play in green and gold jerseys with white shorts, and their emblem is the native antelope springbok. The team has been representing South Africa in international rugby union since 30 July 1891, when they played their first test match against a British Isles touring team.

Although South Africa was instrumental in the creation of the Rugby World Cup competition, the Springboks did not compete in the first two World Cups in 1987 and 1991 because of international anti-apartheid sporting boycotts. The team made its World Cup debut in 1995, when the newly democratic South Africa hosted the tournament. The Springboks defeated the All Blacks 15-12 in the final, which is now remembered as one of the greatest moments in South Africa's sporting history, and a watershed moment in the post-Apartheid nation-building process. South Africa regained the title as champions 12 years later, when they defeated England 15-6 in the 2007 final. As a result of the 2007 World Cup tournament the Springboks were promoted to first place in the IRB World Rankings, a position they held until July the following year when New Zealand regained the top spot. They were named 2008 World Team of the Year at the Laureus World Sports Awards.[2] South Africa then won a third World Cup title in 2019, defeating England 32-12 in the final. As a result of this, the South African National Rugby Union Team were named 2020 World Team of the Year at the Laureus World Sports Awards for a second time.

The Springboks also compete in the annual Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri-Nations), along with southern-hemisphere counterparts Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. They have won this championship on four occasions in twenty-four competitions and are the only team to have won a version of the competition and the Rugby World Cup in the same year.


First internationals: 1891-1913

The South Africa team that played the second test against the British Isles in 1891

The first British Isles tour took place in 1891, at Diocesan College.[3] These were the first representative games played by South African sides. The tourists won all twenty matches they played, conceding only one point.[4][5] The British Isles' success continued on their tour of 1896, winning three out of four tests against South Africa. South Africa's play greatly improved from 1891, and their first test win in the final game was a pointer to the future.[6][7] In 1903 the British Isles lost a series for the first time in South Africa, drawing the opening two tests before losing the last 8-0.[8][9] Rugby was given a huge boost by the early Lions tours, which created great interest in the South African press.[10] South Africa would not lose another series--home or away--until 1956.[11]

The 1906 Springboks team

The first South African team to tour the British Isles and France occurred during 1906-07. The team played tests against all four Home Nations. England managed a draw, but Scotland was the only one of the Home unions to gain a victory.[12] The trip instilled a sense of national pride among South Africans.[11][13] The South Africans played an unofficial match against a 'France' team while the official French team were in England; the Springboks won 55-6.[14][15] It was during this tour that the nickname Springboks was first used.[16][17][18]

The 1910 British Isles tour of South Africa was the first to include representatives from all four Home unions. The tourists won just one of their three tests.[19] The Boks' second European tour took place in 1912-13. They beat the four Home nations to earn their first Grand Slam, and also defeated France.[11][20]

Inter war

The Springboks team that faced New Zealand in 1921

By the first World War, New Zealand and South Africa had established themselves as rugby's two greatest powers.[21][22] A Springbok tour to New Zealand and Australia in 1921 was billed as "The World Championship of Rugby".[23] The All Blacks won the first Test 13-5,[24] The Springboks recovered to win the second Test 9-5,[24] and the final Test was drawn 0-0, resulting in a series draw.[25]

The [[1924 British Lions tour to South Africa|1924 British Lions team] lost three of the four Tests to the Springboks, drawing the other.[26][27] This was the first side to pick up the name Lions, apparently picked up from the Lions embroidered on their ties.[28][29] The All Blacks first toured South Africa in 1928, and again the Test series finished level. The Springboks won the first Test 17-0 to inflict the All Blacks' heaviest defeat since 1893.[30][31] The All Blacks rebounded to win the second Test 7-6. After a Springbok win in the third Test, the All Blacks won 13-5 to draw the series.[32]

Despite winning South Africa's second Grand Slam, the Springbok tourists of 1931-32 were an unloved team, due to their tactics of kicking for territory.[33][34] It was successful however, winning against England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as defeating all their Welsh opponents for the first time.[35]

The complete squad that toured New Zealand and Australia in 1937

In 1933, Australia toured South Africa, with the Springboks winning the series 3-2.

In 1937 South Africa toured New Zealand and Australia and their 2-1 series win prompted them to be called "the best team to ever leave New Zealand".[36][37]

The British Isles toured South Africa again in 1938, winning the majority of their tour matches. The Springboks secured easy victories in the first two tests. However, the Lions bounced back to record a win in the third test, for the first Lions win on South Africa soil since 1910.[38]

Post-war era

Danie Craven was appointed coach in 1949, and started his coaching career winning ten matches in a row, including a 4-0 whitewash of New Zealand on their 1949 tour to South Africa.[39]

The 1951-52 team that toured Europe was considered amongst the finest Springbok sides to tour.[20] The team won the Grand Slam as well as defeating France. Hennie Muller captained the side. The South African highlight of the tour was a 44-0 defeat of Scotland.[33][40] The team finished with only one loss, to London Counties, from 31 matches.[41]

In 1953, Australia toured South Africa for the second time and although they lost the series they defeated South Africa 18-14 in the second test. This was the first Springbok defeat for 15 years.[] The 1955 British Lions tour to South Africa four-test series ended in a draw.

In 1956, Springboks toured Australasia the All Blacks won its first series over the Springboks, in "the most bitterly fought series in history."[42][43]

When France toured South Africa in 1958 they were not expected to compete.[44] France exceeded expectations and drew 3-3.[45] The French then secured a Test series victory with a 9-5 victory.[46]

Anti-apartheid protests: 1960s-1970s

In 1960, international criticism of apartheid grew in the wake of The Wind of Change speech and the Sharpeville massacre.[47] The Springboks increasingly became the target of international protest. The All Blacks toured South Africa in 1960, despite a 150,000 signature petition opposing it.[48] The Springboks avenged their 1956 series defeat by winning the four-match test series 2-1 with one draw.[43][49] that same year the Springboks toured Europe, and they defeated all four Home unions for their fourth Grand Slam.

The 1962 British Lions tour to South Africa lost three of the four tests, drawing the other. In 1963 the touring Wallabies beat the Springboks in consecutive tests, the first team to do so since the 1896 British team.[] In 1964, in Wales' first overseas tour they played one test match against South Africa, losing 3-24, their biggest defeat in 40 years.[50][51][52]

South Africa had a poor year in 1965, losing matches in a tour of Ireland and Scotland, and in a tour of Australia and New Zealand.

The planned 1967 tour by the All Blacks was cancelled by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union after the South African government refused to allow Maori players.[53] In 1968 the Lions toured and lost three Tests and drew one.

Next year in the 1969-70 Springbok tour to the UK and Ireland the Springboks lost test matches against England and Scotland, and drew against Ireland and Wales. Throughout the tour however, large anti-apartheid demonstrations meant that several matches had to be played behind barbed wire fences.

In 1970 the All Blacks toured South Africa once again--after the South African government agreed to treat Maoris in the team and Maori spectators as 'honorary whites'.[54][55] The Springboks won the test series 3-1.

In the Springbok tour of Australia in 1971, the Springboks won all three tests. As in Britain three years before, however, massive anti-apartheid demonstrations greeted the team, and they had to be transported by the Royal Australian Air Force after the trade unions refused to service planes or trains transporting them. A planned tour of New Zealand for 1973 was blocked by New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk on the grounds of public safety.[56]

The Lions team that toured South Africa in 1974 triumphed 3-0 (with one drawn) in the test series. A key feature was the Lions' infamous '99 call'. Lions management had decided that the Springboks dominated their opponents with physical aggression, so decided "to get their retaliation in first". At the call of '99' each Lions player would attack their nearest rival player. The "battle of Boet Erasmus Stadium" was one of the most violent matches in rugby history.[57]

Sporting isolation: 1970s-1980s

The 1976 All Blacks tour of South Africa went ahead, and the Springboks won by three Tests to one, but coming shortly after the Soweto riots the tour attracted international condemnation. Twenty-eight countries boycotted the 1976 Summer Olympics in protest, and in 1977 the Gleneagles Agreement discouraged any Commonwealth sporting contact with South Africa. In response to the growing pressure, the segregated South African rugby unions merged in 1977. A planned 1979 Springbok tour of France was blocked by the French government.

The Lions toured South Africa in 1980, losing the first three tests before winning the last one.

The 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand went ahead in defiance of the Gleneagles Agreement. South Africa lost the series 1-2. The tour and the massive civil disruption in New Zealand had ramifications far beyond rugby. In 1981, Errol Tobias became the first non-white South African to represent his country when he took the field against Ireland.[] South Africa sought to counteract its sporting isolation by inviting the South American Jaguars to tour. The team contained mainly Argentinian players. Eight matches were played between the two teams in the early 1980s--all awarded Test status. In 1984, England toured losing both test matches; of the players selected, only Ralph Knibbs of Bristol refused to tour for political reasons.

Due to the isolation from apartheid, from 1985 to 1991, South Africa did not play a single test match against an established country, although South Africa did play some matches against makeshift teams.[58] In 1985, a planned All Black tour of South Africa was stopped by the New Zealand High Court. A rebel tour took place the next year by a team known as the Cavaliers, which consisted of all but two of the original squad.[59] The Springboks won the series 3-1. In 1989, a World XV sanctioned by the International Rugby Board went on a mini-tour of South Africa; all traditional rugby nations bar New Zealand supplied players to the team. South Africa was not permitted by the International Rugby Board to compete in the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup, nor in the following 1991 Rugby World Cup.

Rainbow nation and 1995 World Cup

Apartheid was abolished during 1990-91, and the Springboks were readmitted to international rugby in 1992. They struggled to return to their pre-isolation standards in their first games after readmission. During the 1992 All Blacks tour, the first to South Africa since 1976, the Springboks were defeated 24-27 by New Zealand, and suffered a 3-26 loss to Australia the following month.

South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup, with a surge of support for the Springboks among the white and black communities behind the slogan "one team, one country."[60] This was the first major international sports event to be held in the Rainbow Nation. By the time they hosted the 1995 World Cup, the Springboks, coached by Kitch Christie, were seeded ninth. They won their pool by defeating Australia, Romania, and Canada. Wins in the quarter-final against Western Samoa (42-14) and in the semi-final against France (19-15) sent the Springboks to the final. South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final against the All Blacks 15-12 in extra-time.[61][62][63][64][65] President Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok shirt, presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, a white Afrikaner. The gesture was widely seen as a major step towards the reconciliation of white and black South Africans.[66]

A series of crises followed in 1995 through 1997. Christie resigned in 1996 due to leukaemia. South Africa struggled in the new Tri-Nations competition, the All Blacks won a test series in South Africa for the first time in 1996,[67] and the Lions won their 1997 South African tour test series two games to one. Coach Andre Markgraaff was fired in 1997 over a racist comment he made.[] The team suffered successive defeats in the Lions 1997 tour and the 1997 Tri Nations Series.

In 1997, coach Nick Mallett coached South Africa's unbeaten 1997 tour of Europe, and in 1998 the Boks tied the then-existing record for longest test winning streak, winning 17 consecutive tests, including the 1998 Tri-Nations.[68] At the 1999 Rugby World Cup the Springboks reached the semi-finals of the competition, where they lost to eventual champions Australia.[69]

Bobby Skinstad in June 2007

During the 2002 and 2003 seasons, the Springboks lost by record margins to England (3-53), France, Scotland and New Zealand.[70][71] At the 2003 Rugby World Cup, they were eliminated in the quarter-final round - their worst showing to date.

Following wins during the June 2004 tours, the Boks won the 2004 Tri Nations Series. The Springboks won the 2004 IRB International Team of the Year award. The Springboks finished second in the 2005 Tri-Nations.

Percy Montgomery running the ball for the Springboks against Samoa in 2007

The 2006 Springboks lost to France, ending their long undefeated home record. A poor 2006 Tri Nations Series included two losses to the Wallabies. Coach Jake White told the press in July 2006 that he had been unable to pick some white players for his squad "because of transformation"--a reference to the ANC government's policies to redress racial imbalances.[]

2007 Rugby World Cup victory

The Springboks before their 2007 World Cup match against Samoa

At the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, the Springboks won their pool. The Springboks then defeated Fiji 37-20 in the quarter-finals, and Argentina 37-13 in the semi-finals. In the final they prevailed 15-6 over England to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a second time.

In January 2008, Peter de Villiers was appointed as the first non-white coach of the Springboks. De Villiers's first squad included ten of colour. The team finishes last in the Tri Nations, but notched several wins during their 2008 end of year tour.

The 2009 season was more successful. The Boks earned a 2-1 series win over the Lions, and then won the 2009 Tri Nations Series. However, during the November tests they lost their top spot in the IRB rankings with losses to France and Ireland. Nonetheless, the Boks were named IRB International Team of the Year.

The Boks' June 2010 test campaign included a win over France (their first victory over the French since 2005).[72] However, the Boks performed poorly in the 2010 Tri Nations campaign, sliding to third in the world rankings.[73] In the 2011 Tri Nations the Boks rested a number of players in preparation for the upcoming World Cup. At the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the Springboks topped their group before falling to Australia 9-11 in the quarter-finals.

2019 Rugby World Cup victory

The Springboks won the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan after defeating England 32-12 in the final. It was for the first time that a Black South African rugby captain got to lift the Webb Ellis Cup as well as the first time that a team won a final with a defeat in pool stages, the captain being Siya Kolisi who presented South African president Cyril Ramaphosa the number 6 jersey to commemorate Nelson Mandela, who wore the same numbered jersey during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

The final match between South Africa and England served as a rematch between the two in reference to the 2007 Rugby World Cup final. This marks the third time South Africa has won the World Cup which ties the team with the All Blacks for most Rugby World Cup wins.

Crest and colours

The first springbok logo was introduced in 1906; this emblem has been regarded as representing apartheid's exclusion politics

Since the demise of apartheid the ruling African National Congress has wanted to replace the Springbok across all national teams, as emblem of the racially segregated sporting codes, with a neutral symbol that would represent a decisive break with a repressive past. The King Protea as South Africa's national flower was chosen for this purpose, so that the national cricket team became known as the Proteas, for example. A similar change was envisioned for the national rugby squad's springbok emblem. Paul Roos's team had first introduced the Springbok in 1906, and it had promoted a measure of unity among white English and Afrikaans-speaking players after the two Anglo-Boer Wars of the late 19th century.[74]

Since 1992, the protea has been displayed on team jerseys (alongside the springbok) and used as the official emblem on blazers and caps

The Springbok was regarded as representing both the exclusion of players who were not designated white under apartheid legislation and, by extension, of apartheid itself.[75] Although the Springbok was adopted briefly by the first coloured national rugby team in 1939 and by their first black counterparts in 1950, it became exclusively associated with segregated sporting codes afterwards. South African rugby officials in particular, and the national rugby team itself, have an historical association with racism from 1906 on. The first rugby Springboks initially refused to play against a Devon side that included Jimmy Peters, the first black player to represent England.[76] Legendary official, national coach, and Springbok scrumhalf Danie Craven had acquiesced with government officials who had demanded that M?ori players be excluded from visiting All Black teams.[77] Craven had also indicated that the Springbok was exclusively tied to the white identity of the national rugby team.[75]

As a result of political pressure the national rugby team jersey from 1992 on featured a king protea alongside the springbok. As portrayed in the film Invictus, pressure to replace the Springbok as emblem for the rugby team came to a head in 1994, just before the Rugby World Cup that would take place in South Africa. As a result of Nelson Mandela's direct intervention (Mandela himself was a devoted fan of the Springbok rugby team), the ANC's executive decided not to do away with the emblem at the time, but to reappropriate it. After the national team won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, black rugby pioneer Dan Qeqe said that "The Springboks play for all of us".[74]

In March 2004 the South African Sports Commission ratified a decision that the protea be the official rugby emblem on blazers and caps, with the concession that the springbok could remain on the team jersey and the traditional Springbok colours.[78] And in November 2007 the ANC's special conference at Polokwane again endorsed the need for a single symbol for all sporting codes. While critics like Qondisa Ngwenya foresaw a loss of revenue from dumping the springbok emblem,[74] others like Cheeky Watson urged the need for an alternative, unifying symbol.[79] In 2015 for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the springbok was moved from the front of the jersey to the right sleeve while the Protea remained on the front. This was due to World Cup regulations stating that only the IRB logo and the main team logo could go on the front of the shirt. Several South African rugby fans voiced their disappointment and anger at the reveal of the 2015 shirt as a result of the springbok not being on the front of the shirt.[80]


2002 South Africa jersey, made by Nike, with springbok emblem on the left side

South Africa play in green jerseys with a gold collar and trim, white shorts and green socks. The jersey is embroidered with the SA Rugby logo on the wearer's left chest and the springbok logo on the right chest. Japanese company ASICS is the kit provider for all the South Africa rugby teams,[81] through an agreement signed with the SARU until 2019.[82] South Africa's shirt sponsor is local mobile phone provider MTN Group. Additional uniform sponsors are DHL on the back above the numbers, and Land Rover, FlySafair, and Samsung rotating on the rear hems of the shorts.

Back in time, the first shirt wore by South Africa was a navy blue one in their Tests against the British Isles during the Lions tour of 1891.[83]

The green jersey was first adopted when the British Isles toured South Africa in 1903. After playing the first two Tests in white shirts, South Africa wore a green jersey (supplied by the Diocesan College rugby team) for the first time in their final Test at Newlands.[84]

On their first tour to Great Britain and Ireland in 1906-07 South Africa wore a green jersey with white collar, blue shorts, and blue socks taken from the Diocesan College. A replica shirt was worn in 2006 against Ireland in Dublin to mark the centenary of the tour.[85] When Australia first toured South Africa in 1933, the visitors wore sky blue jerseys to avoid confusion, as at the time, both wore dark green jerseys. In 1953, when Australia toured again, the Springboks wore white jerseys for the test matches. In 1961 Australia changed their jersey to gold to avoid further colour clashes.[86] 2017 saw the Springboks wear a red change jersey at Argentina as part of an Asics promotion where the Springboks and Blitzboks wore jerseys in all the colours of the South African flag during the course of the season--the main side wore green, white, and red shirts, while the sevens team turned out in gold, blue and black uniforms.

The Springbok nickname and logo also dates from the 1906-07 tour of Britain. The springbok was chosen to represent the team by tour captain Paul Roos in an attempt to prevent the British press from inventing their own name. The logo was not restricted to the white team alone - the first coloured national team used the springbok in 1939 and the first black team in 1950.[87] After the fall of apartheid in 1992 a wreath of proteas was added to the logo. When the ANC was elected in 1994 the team's name was not changed to the Proteas, like that of the South African cricket team, due in part to the intervention of then-President Nelson Mandela.[87][88]

In December 2008, the SARU decided to place the protea on the left side of the Boks' jersey, in line with other South African national teams, and move the springbok to the right side of the jersey.[89] The new jersey was worn for the first time during the British & Irish Lions' 2009 tour of South Africa.[90]

Period Kit manufacturer Shirt sponsor
1992-1996 Cotton Traders Lion Lager
1996-1999 Nike No shirt sponsor
2000-2003 Castle Lager*
2004 mid-year internationals None
2004 Tri-Nations Canterbury
December 2004 - 2010 SASOL
2011-2013 Absa
2014-2015 Asics
2016 mid-year internationals Blue Label Telecoms
2017-present MTN Group

* In a 2001 autumn international against France in Saint-Denis, the logo on their kit was replaced by Charles because of the Evin law, which prohibits alcohol companies from advertising during sports events in France.

Jersey evolution

1995 Home
1997 Home
1999 Home
2001 Home
2003 Home
2007 Home
2009 Home
2011-12 Home
2011 RWC Home
2011-12 Away
2013 Home
2015-16 Home
2017 Home
2018 Home
2019 Home

Home grounds

The Springboks do not use a single stadium as their home, but they play out of a number of venues throughout South Africa. The 60,000 seat Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg was the main venue for the 1995 World Cup,[91] where the Springboks defeated the All Blacks in the final. Other regular venues for tests include Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, Kings Park Stadium in Durban, Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, and Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha.[92] The Springboks played their first test match at Soccer City on 21 August 2010, a Tri Nations match against New Zealand.[93]

Other stadiums that have been used for test matches include Buffalo City Stadium in East London, the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace outside of Rustenburg, Mbombela Stadium in Mbombela and Puma Stadium in eMalahleni.

The first South African international took place at Port Elizabeth's St George's Park Cricket Ground in 1891.[94] Ellis Park was built in 1928, and in 1955 hosted a record 100,000 people in a Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions.[91]

The Springboks are said to have a notable advantage over touring sides when playing at high altitude on the Highveld.[95] Games at Ellis Park, Loftus Versfeld, or Vodacom Park are said to present physical problems,[96][97] and to influence a match in a number of other ways, such as the ball travelling further when kicked.[98] Experts disagree on whether touring team's traditionally poor performances at altitude are more due to a state of mind rather than an actual physical challenge.[97]


Men's World Rugby Rankings
Top 20 rankings as of 12 July, 2021[99]
Rank Change* Team Points
1 Steady  South Africa 094.20
2 Steady  New Zealand 088.95
3 Steady  England 085.44
4 Steady  Ireland 084.85
5 Increase2  Australia 083.90
6 Decrease1  France 083.45
7 Decrease1  Wales 082.82
8 Steady  Scotland 082.02
9 Steady  Argentina 080.92
10 Steady  Japan 079.13
11 Steady  Fiji 076.87
12 Steady  Georgia 073.73
13 Increase1  Samoa 071.88
14 Increase1  Italy 070.65
15 Decrease2  Tonga 070.28
16 Steady  United States 068.10
17 Steady  Uruguay 067.02
18 Steady  Romania 066.22
19 Steady  Spain 064.82
20 Increase1  Portugal 063.90
21 Decrease1  Russia 062.71
22 Steady  Hong Kong 061.23
23 Steady  Canada 061.11
24 Steady  Netherlands 059.30
25 Steady  Namibia 059.04
26 Steady  Brazil 056.32
27 Steady  Belgium 056.16
28 Increase1  Chile 055.20
28 Decrease1   Switzerland 054.12
30 Steady  Germany 053.13
*Change from the previous week
South Africa's historical rankings

See or edit raw graph data.

Source: World Rugby - Graph updated to 19 July 2021[99]

List of South Africa national rugby union team records

World Rugby Ranking Leaders
South Africa national rugby union teamEngland national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamIreland national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamWales national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamSouth Africa national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamSouth Africa national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamSouth Africa national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamEngland national rugby union teamNew Zealand national rugby union teamEngland national rugby union team

Rugby Championship

South Africa's only yearly tournament is The Rugby Championship (formerly Tri-Nations), involving Australia and New Zealand since 1996, with Argentina joining the competition in 2012. South Africa has won the tournament four times; in 1998, 2004, 2009 and 2019. South Africa also participates in the Mandela Challenge Plate with Australia, and the Freedom Cup with New Zealand as part of the Rugby Championship.

Tri Nations (1996-2011; 2020)
Nation Games Points Bonus
76 52 0 24 2054 1449 +605 35 243 11
 Australia 76 30 3 43 1591 1817 -226 34 160 3
72 28 1 43 1480 1831 -351 24 138 3
4 1 2 1 56 84 -28 0 8 0
Source: - Tri-Nations, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa

Bonus points given by T - 4W - 2D, for T table points, W games won and D games drawn.

Rugby Championship (2012-present)
Nation Games Points Bonus
42 36 2 4 1423 751 +672 26 174 6
42 19 4 19 1048 974 +74 19 103 1
 Australia 42 19 3 20 952 1088 -136 9 91 1
 Argentina 42 5 1 36 766 1376 -610 11 33 0
Updated: 5 December 2020
Source: - TRC, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa
Bonus points given by T - 4W - 2D, for T table points, W games won and D games drawn.
All-time Tri Nations and Rugby Championship Table (1996-present)
Nation Games Points Bonus
118 88 2 28 3477 2200 +1277 61 417 17
118 49 6 63 2543 2905 -362 43 249 4
 South Africa 114 47 5 62 2528 2805 -277 43 229 4
 Argentina 46 6 3 37 822 1460 -638 11 41 0
Updated: 5 December 2020
Bonus points given by T - 4W - 2D, for T table points, W games won and D games drawn.

Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup
Year Round Pld W D L PF PA Squad
New Zealand Australia 1987 Barred due to Apartheid
England France Ireland Scotland Wales 1991
South Africa 1995 Champions 6 6 0 0 144 67 Squad
Wales 1999 Third Place 6 5 0 1 219 101 Squad
Australia 2003 Quarter-finals 5 3 0 2 193 89 Squad
France 2007 Champions 7 7 0 0 278 86 Squad
New Zealand 2011 Quarter-finals 5 4 0 1 175 35 Squad
England 2015 Third Place 7 5 0 2 241 108 Squad
Japan 2019 Champions 7 6 0 1 262 67 Squad
France 2023
Total 43 36 0 7 1512 553
  Champions    Runners-up    Third place    Fourth place Home venue

South Africa did not participate in the 1987 and 1991 World Cups because of the sporting boycott that apartheid brought against them. South Africa's introduction to the event was as hosts. They defeated defending champions Australia 27-18 in the opening match, and went on to defeat the All Blacks 15-12 after extra time in the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final, with a drop goal from 40 metres by Joel Stransky.[100]

In 1999 South Africa experienced their first World Cup loss when they were defeated 21-27 by Australia in their semi-final; they went on to defeat the All Blacks 22-18 in the third-fourth play-off match.[101] The worst ever South African performance at a World Cup was in 2003 when they lost a pool game to England, and then were knocked out of the tournament by the All Blacks in their quarter-final.[102] In 2007 the Springboks defeated Fiji in the quarter-finals and Argentina in the semi-finals. They then defeated England in the final 15-6 to win the tournament for a second time. In 2011 the Springboks were defeated by Australia 9-11 in the quarter-finals after winning all four of their pool games.

In the 2015 World Cup, South Africa suffered a 32-34 loss to Japan in their first pool match on 19 September. BBC reported the game as arguably the biggest upset in rugby union history.[103][104] However, South Africa defeated Japan 26-3 in the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.


Until the 1990s South Africa were considered the most successful rugby nation in Test match history, with a positive win-loss ratio against every Test playing nation including their traditional rivals, New Zealand. Since that time, the Springboks have lost their winning record against the New Zealand All Blacks. South Africa are currently ranked number 1 in the world rankings (as of 2 November 2019). When the ranking system was introduced in October 2003 South Africa were ranked sixth. Their ranking fluctuated until victory in the 2007 Rugby World Cup briefly sent them to the top of the rankings.

Below is test matches played by South Africa up until 2 July 2021. Only fixtures recognised as test matches by the South African Rugby Union are listed.[105][106]

Head to Head result

Opponent Played Won Lost Drawn Win % For Aga Diff
 Argentina 30 26 3 1 86.67% 1058 594 +464
 Australia 88 48 37 3 54.55% 1733 1550 +183
British & Irish Lions 46 23 17 6 50.00% 600 516 +84
 Canada 3 3 0 0 100.00% 137 25 +112
 England 43 26 15 2 60.50% 919 729 +190
 Fiji 3 3 0 0 100.00% 129 41 +88
 France 44 27 11 6 61.36% 939 662 +277
 Georgia 2 2 0 0 100.00% 86 28 +58
 Ireland 26 18 7 1 69.23% 506 380 +126
 Italy 15 14 1 0 93.33% 701 174 +527
 Japan 3 2 1 0 66.67% 99 44 +55
 Namibia 3 3 0 0 100.00% 249 16 +233
 New Zealand 99 36 59 4 36.40% 1577 2050 -473
 New Zealand Cavaliers 4 3 1 0 75.00% 96 62 +34
Flag of rugby Pacific Islanders.svg Pacific Islanders 1 1 0 0 100.00% 38 24 +14
 Romania 1 1 0 0 100.00% 21 8 +13
 Samoa 9 9 0 0 100.00% 431 99 +332
 Scotland 27 22 5 0 81.48% 712 306 +406
 South American Jaguars 8 7 1 0 87.50% 210 114 +96
 Spain 1 1 0 0 100.00% 47 3 +44
 Tonga 2 2 0 0 100.00% 104 35 +69
 United States 4 4 0 0 100.00% 209 42 +167
 Uruguay 3 3 0 0 100.00% 245 12 +233
 Wales 36 29 6 1 80.0% 922 568 +354
 World XV 3 3 0 0 100.00% 87 59 +28
Total 504 316 164 24 62.70% 11855 8141 +3714

± The Cavaliers was the name given to an unofficial (rebel) New Zealand team that toured South Africa in 1986. The New Zealand Rugby Union did not sanction the team and do not recognise the side as a New Zealand representative team.


Current squad

On 5 June 2021, a 45-man squad for the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa was announced.[107]

A month later on 5 July 2021, the squad was forced to isolate after the second row Lood de Jager returned a positive coronavirus test.[108]

On 10 July, Lizo Gqoboka and Fez Mbatha were added to the squad as COVID-19 cover.[109]

  • Caps updated: 2 July 2021

Head coach: South Africa Jacques Nienaber

Player Position Date of birth (age) Caps Club/province
Joseph Dweba Hooker (1995-10-25) 25 October 1995 (age 25) 0 France Bordeaux
Malcolm Marx Hooker (1994-07-13) 13 July 1994 (age 27) 34 Japan Kubota Spears
Fez Mbatha Hooker (1999-08-02) 2 August 1999 (age 21) 0 South Africa Sharks
Bongi Mbonambi Hooker (1991-01-07) 7 January 1991 (age 30) 37 South Africa Stormers
Scarra Ntubeni Hooker (1991-02-18) 18 February 1991 (age 30) 1 South Africa Stormers
Thomas du Toit Prop (1995-05-05) 5 May 1995 (age 26) 12 South Africa Sharks
Lizo Gqoboka Prop (1990-03-24) 24 March 1990 (age 31) 2 South Africa Bulls
Steven Kitshoff Prop (1992-02-10) 10 February 1992 (age 29) 48 South Africa Stormers
Vincent Koch Prop (1990-03-13) 13 March 1990 (age 31) 21 England Saracens
Frans Malherbe Prop (1991-03-14) 14 March 1991 (age 30) 39 South Africa Stormers
Ox Nché Prop (1995-07-23) 23 July 1995 (age 26) 2 South Africa Sharks
Trevor Nyakane Prop (1989-05-04) 4 May 1989 (age 32) 43 South Africa Bulls
Coenie Oosthuizen Prop (1989-03-22) 22 March 1989 (age 32) 30 England Sale Sharks
Lood de Jager Lock (1992-12-17) 17 December 1992 (age 28) 45 England Sale Sharks
Rynhardt Elstadt Lock (1989-12-20) 20 December 1989 (age 31) 2 France Toulouse
Eben Etzebeth Lock (1991-10-29) 29 October 1991 (age 29) 86 France Toulon
Nico Janse van Rensburg Lock (1994-05-06) 6 May 1994 (age 27) 0 France Montpellier
Franco Mostert Lock (1990-11-27) 27 November 1990 (age 30) 40 Japan Honda Heat
Marvin Orie Lock (1993-02-15) 15 February 1993 (age 28) 4 South Africa Stormers
RG Snyman Lock (1995-01-29) 29 January 1995 (age 26) 23 Ireland Munster
Dan du Preez Loose forward (1995-08-05) 5 August 1995 (age 25) 4 England Sale Sharks
Jean-Luc du Preez Loose forward (1995-08-05) 5 August 1995 (age 25) 13 England Sale Sharks
Pieter-Steph du Toit Loose forward (1992-08-20) 20 August 1992 (age 28) 56 South Africa Stormers
Siya Kolisi (c) Loose forward (1991-06-16) 16 June 1991 (age 30) 51 South Africa Sharks
Kwagga Smith Loose forward (1993-06-11) 11 June 1993 (age 28) 7 Japan Yamaha Júbilo
Marco van Staden Loose forward (1995-08-25) 25 August 1995 (age 25) 3 South Africa Bulls
Duane Vermeulen Loose forward (1986-07-03) 3 July 1986 (age 35) 54 South Africa Bulls
Jasper Wiese Loose forward (1995-10-21) 21 October 1995 (age 25) 1 England Leicester Tigers
Faf de Klerk Scrum-half (1991-10-19) 19 October 1991 (age 29) 30 England Sale Sharks
Herschel Jantjies Scrum-half (1996-04-22) 22 April 1996 (age 25) 11 South Africa Stormers
Sanele Nohamba Scrum-half (1999-01-19) 19 January 1999 (age 22) 0 South Africa Sharks
Cobus Reinach Scrum-half (1990-02-07) 7 February 1990 (age 31) 15 France Montpellier
Elton Jantjies Fly-half (1990-08-01) 1 August 1990 (age 30) 38 France Pau
Handré Pollard Fly-half (1994-03-11) 11 March 1994 (age 27) 49 France Montpellier
Morné Steyn Fly-half (1984-07-11) 11 July 1984 (age 37) 66 South Africa Bulls
Lukhanyo Am Centre (1993-11-28) 28 November 1993 (age 27) 15 South Africa Sharks
Damian de Allende Centre (1991-11-25) 25 November 1991 (age 29) 47 Ireland Munster
Jesse Kriel Centre (1994-02-15) 15 February 1994 (age 27) 47 Japan Canon Eagles
Wandisile Simelane Centre (1998-03-21) 21 March 1998 (age 23) 0 South Africa Lions
François Steyn Centre (1987-05-14) 14 May 1987 (age 34) 68 South Africa Cheetahs
Cheslin Kolbe Wing (1993-10-28) 28 October 1993 (age 27) 14 France Toulouse
Makazole Mapimpi Wing (1990-07-26) 26 July 1990 (age 31) 14 South Africa Sharks
Sbu Nkosi Wing (1996-01-21) 21 January 1996 (age 25) 11 South Africa Sharks
Yaw Penxe Wing (1997-04-03) 3 April 1997 (age 24) 0 South Africa Sharks
Rosko Specman Wing (1989-04-28) 28 April 1989 (age 32) 1 South Africa Cheetahs
Aphelele Fassi Fullback (1998-01-23) 23 January 1998 (age 23) 1 South Africa Sharks
Willie le Roux Fullback (1989-08-18) 18 August 1989 (age 31) 62 Japan Toyota Verblitz
Damian Willemse Fullback (1998-05-07) 7 May 1998 (age 23) 7 South Africa Stormers

Individual records

Percy Montgomery holds the South African record for most test points

South Africa's most capped player is Victor Matfield with 127 caps.[110] The most-capped back is Bryan Habana. Percy Montgomery holds the South African record for Test points with 893, which at the time of his international retirement placed him sixth on the all-time list of Test point scorers (he now stands ninth).[111]

John Smit was the world's most-capped captain, having captained South Africa in 82 of his 111 Tests, but has since been overtaken.[112][113] Smit also played a record 46 consecutive matches for South Africa.

The record try scorer is Bryan Habana with 67 tries.(as of 14 February 2018)[114]

As of 8 October 2019, Cobus Reinach scored the earliest hat-trick in World Cup history.

Hall of Fame

Twelve former South African international players have been inducted into either the International Rugby Hall of Fame or the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

  1. Barry "Fairy" Heatlie played 6 Tests between 1896 and 1903.
  2. Bennie Osler played 17 consecutive Tests between 1924 and 1933.
  3. Danie Craven played 16 Tests between 1931 and 1938.
  4. Hennie Muller played 13 Tests between 1949 and 1953.
  5. Frik du Preez played 38 Tests between 1961 and 1971.
  6. Morné du Plessis played 22 Tests between 1971 and 1980.
  7. Naas Botha played 28 Tests between 1980 and 1992.
  8. Danie Gerber played 24 Tests between 1980 and 1992.
  9. Francois Pienaar played 29 Tests between 1993 and 1996.
  10. Joost van der Westhuizen played 89 Tests between 1993 and 2003.
  11. Os du Randt played 80 Tests between 1994 and 2007.
  12. John Smit played 111 Tests between 2000 and 2011. He ended his international career as the most-capped Springbok in history.

In addition to players, the World Rugby Hall of Fame has also inducted the following people:

  1. Kitch Christie, coach of the 1995 Rugby World Cup-winning team.
  2. Jake White, coach of the 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning team.
  3. Nelson Mandela for his impact on the sport.[115]


Current coaching staff

The current coaching staff of the South African national team was revealed on 24 January 2020:[116]

Rassie Erasmus Director of Rugby
Jacques Nienaber Springbok Head Coach
Felix Jones European-Based Coaching Consultant
Deon Davids Assistant Coach (Forwards)
Mzwandile Stick Assistant coach (Backline)
Daan Human Scrum consultant
Vacant Head of Athletic Performance
Dr Konrad von Hagen Team doctor
Lindsay Weyer Technical Analyst
Charles Wessels Head of Operations
Vivian Verwant Physiotherapist
René Naylor Physiotherapist
Tanu Pillay Physiotherapist
JJ Fredericks Logistics manager
Yusuf Hassan Team Doctor
Anneliese PR manager

Former coaches

The role and definition of the South Africa coach has varied significantly over the team's history. Hence a comprehensive list of coaches, or head selectors, is impossible. The following table is a list of coaches since the 1949 All Blacks tour to South Africa. Both World Cup-winning coaches, Christie and White, were inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame in 2011 alongside all other World Cup-winning head coaches through the 2007 edition.[117]


Traditionally, most of the test matches against other countries happened during tours/series. The first team to visit South Africa were the British Lions in 1891. The first Springbok overseas tour was arranged in 1906-07 to Europe.

Year(s) Series Played Series played
Points for
Points against
 England 7 4 0 3
 Wales 5 5 0 0
 Scotland 2 2 0 0
 Ireland 4 4 0 0
 France 13 8 2 3
British Lions 13 8 4 1
 Australia 10 7 2 1
 Argentina 3 3 0 0
 New Zealand 12 5 5 2

In popular culture

The combined exploits of Mandela and the Springboks in helping unify the country through rugby union was later chronicled in John Carlin's book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation, which in turn inspired Clint Eastwood's 2009 Academy Award-nominated film Invictus starring Matt Damon as Pienaar and Morgan Freeman as Mandela.

See also



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External links

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