Media reports are quick to plug that the Springboks have never lost to the Pumas.
However I can still remember the day in 1982 when Hugo Porta’s South American team gave the Springboks a hiding 21-12 with Porta scoring all his teams points by running in a try, kicking a dropgoal, and slotting a few penalties and a conversion.
Picture above show Hugo Porta on his way to score his try on that day on 3 April 1982 when the Jaguars won the boks in Bloemfontein. Porta jinked his way past Naas Botha and Ray Mordt.
That South American team of 1982 was of course called the Jaguars and played in different jerseys than today’s Argentinians. The Jaguars consisted of players from Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Brazil and, in 1984, Spain. But essentially they were Argentinians.
Technically the Pumas thus have never beaten the Springboks.
Factually they did accomplish it in 1982.
Above is a picture of the Springbok side of 1982 who demolished the Jaguars 50-18 in the first of a two test series on 27 March 1982 in Pretoria. This was a formidable Springbok side with most of the players having toured to New Zealand in 1981. In the back row from right to left: Danie Gerber; Hempies du Toit; Rob Louw; Carel du Plessis and Ray Mordt. Middle row: Divan Serfontein; Willie Kats; Ockie Oosthuizen; Burger Geldenhuys; Johan Heunis; Willie du Plessis. Front row: Louis Moolman; dr Hannes Marais (assistant oach); Wynand Claassen (Captain); Prof Daan Swiegers (Manager); Theuns Stofberg; dr Cecil Moss (Coach) and Naas Botha. A week later this same side lost against the Jaguars in Bloemfontein 21-12.
One of those playing for the Jaguars that day was Marcelo Loffreda, later the Pumas’ coach, the man largely lauded for the success of the Pumas in recent times. That series in 1982 was of course not the first time that South Africa played against South America.
Romantically one could argue that the relationship between South African rugby and South American rugby started in 1905 with a man called Fairy Heatlie. Heatlie was the youngest forward ever to play for South Africa. He played for South Africa in 1891, 1896 and 1903. He was a giant of a man and captained the South African test side in 1896 and 1903.
Fairy Heatlie was the captain of the first South African team who won a series against Britain in 1903. In the picture above he can be seen sitting in the centre chair. The players in this picture are from the left in the back row: Joe Anderson; Paul Roos; W van Renen; P.O Nel; H.H. Ferrts; J Barry; Japie Krige. Middle row: J.A Loubsher; W.M.C McEwan; Fairy Heatlie (Captain); J Botha; C Brown. Front row: T.E.C Hobson; H.W Carolin.
It was Heatlie who gave South Africa the green jersey which the Springboks still wear. He was earmarked to captain the first South African touring team to the United Kingdom in 1906 but his life spiralled out of control and he ended up in Argentina fleeing the law. He was eventually brought back to South Africa, stood trial and was sentenced to two years’ hard labour.
However he managed to get back to his wife and sons in Argentina after having served his sentence. In 1910 the first touring team came from Britain to Argentina and they played a Test; Argentina’s first Test. In the Argentinian team was Fairy Heatlie. Having played against the first three such touring teams to South Africa, he also played in the first to tour Argentina which makes him one of the originals or foundation players of both South Africa and Argentina.
The first official contact between the two countries was in 1932 when a Junior Springbok team under captaincy of Joe Nykamp toured to Argentina. Danie Craven in his book ‘Rugby in South Africa; 1889-1964’ explains that this tour resulted as a consequence of the trails to select a team to tour the United Kingdom in 1932. Due to general consensus that South Africa could quite easily select another strong team to tour the U.K a tour was arranged to Argentina and this touring side was called Junior Springboks. The manager of this side was legendary Paul Roos. Paul Roos made no extravagant claims for the strength of his team but felt that the best fifteen “would have given any South African provincial team more than a good run for their money”.
The juniors won all eight their games, beating a representative Argentinian team 42-0 and 43-3. Their hardest match which they won by 11-5 was against Gimnasia y Esgrima, a club coached and captained by Fairy Heatlie. Five of the 1932 Junior Springboks became Springboks.
After the Springboks disastrous tour to New Zealand in 1956 and the series lost against France in 1958 a second Junior Springbok side was send to Argentina in an attempt to build up South African rugby. This team under captaincy of Peter Allen and managership of Kobus Louw played 13 matches, scored 456 points with only 47 scored against them. They played two ‘internationals’ which they won 14-6 and 20-6. This junior Springbok team played against the rest of South Africa as part of the 1960 trails and won the match. Consequently 16 of the team became Springboks.
In 1965 the first Argentinian team left South America touring to South Africa. To prepare them the South African Rugby Board sent one of its most innovative coaches Izak van Heerden to Argentina. Izak van Heerden made a name for himself when in 1963 he coached Natal from a fairly insignificant provincial team to an unbeaten season; the first in 73 years of the Natal Rugby Union. After that season the President of the South African Rugby Board sent a congratulatory telegram to van Heerden which read: “Be assured that we are proud of what you are doing in Natal for Rugby, and particularly your whole approach to the game. You have proved that that adventure in the form of attack is still the basis of the game and we are proud of all you have achieved. We hope that you will continue with the good work.”
Picture of the late Izak van Heerden who is still remembered with respect in Argentina.
That 1965 Argentinian team, captained by Aitor Otaño became the first to be called the Pumas when a South African journalist mistook the Jaguar on their badge for a puma. The highlight of their tour was when they beat the Junior Springboks at Ellis Park, for them an incredible achievement, which they celebrated at great length, loath to leave the stadium.
A Gazelle team (South Africa Under-23) under captaincy of Jannie van Aswegen toured to Argentina in 1972. Fifteen of this 1972 Gazelle side namely Paul Bayvel, Morné du Plessis, Dawie Snyman, Piet Cronje, Ray Carlson, Joggie Jansen, Niek Bezuidenhout, Gerrie Germishuys, Klippies Kritzinger, Kevin de Klerk, Dougald MacDonald, Jan Schlebush, Carel Fourie, Johan Strauss and Jackie Snyman became Springboks.
After this tour Argentina started to become a power to be reckoned with and they went on to beat Wales, Scotland and Ireland in successive years. They drew with England at Twickenham in 1978.
Politics became a major obstacle in terms of maintaining rugby contact after 1972 but the administrators found ways around it which saw the emergence of the Jaguars.
The South American Jaguars played in total 8 test matches against the Springboks between the years 1980 and 1984. They played a significant part in the preparation of the Springbok teams who played the British and Irish Lions in 1980 and the 1981 side who toured to New Zealand.
Who will forget that first test in 1980 against the Jaguars at the Wanderers when the Pumas scored a scrum pushover try against us (see picture above).
This was Naas Botha’s first test. Naas kicked one drop goal and prevented two tries with good cross covering defence. In the second test of that series he announced himself in international rugby with three magnificent drop goals.
This was also the first and last test matches played by the two Northern Transvaal stalwards Tommy du Plessis and Pierre Edwards.
This picture shows Edwards (the original slap chips-I think) kicking for touch. Edwards got injured in the second half of the second test and was replaced by Gysie Pienaar who made such an impression that Edwards never regained his spot.
Tommy du Plessis opened the scoring with his try in the first test at the Wanderers in 1980.
The Springbok team that played in that test at the Wanders can be seen in the picture above. In the back row from right to left: Naas Botha; Johan Strauss; Rob Louw; Willie du Plessis; Ray Mordt. Middle row: Gerrie Germishuys; Richard Prentis; Theuns Stofberg; Louis Moolman; Pierre Edwards; Dave Fredrickson; Tommy du Plessis. Front row: Kevin de Klerk; Butch Lochner (manager); Morné du Plessis (Captain); Nelie Smith (Coach); Peter Whipp. For the second test of that series (which the Springboks won 18-9) Johan Straus was replaced by Daan du Plessis. Tommy du Plessis was replaced by Divan Serfontein a few weeks later for the sreies against the British and Irish Lions. Edwards was replaced by Gysie Pienaar after 12 minutes in the second half of the second test. De Wet Ras also replaced Willie du Plessis after 14 minutes in the second half thus gaining his second test cap as a replacement after getting his first cap in 1976 when he went on in the first test against the All Blacks for Gerald Bosch.
The second test of that series is remembered for a crash tackle by Peter Whipp on Hugo Porta. This tackle culminated in a try by Gerrie Germishuys. This picture show Peter Whipp in action against the Jaguars in 1980.
This was the pre-ultimate test for Kevin de Klerk shown here on the charge in the first test match. De Klerk played one more test after this series namely the second test against the Lions of 1980.
After the series against the 1980 British and Irish Lions in 1980 the Springboks went off to South America. Barred from Argentina they played two tests matches against the Jaguars in Montevideo and Santiago. The South American team consisted solely of Argentinian players. In total the Springboks played 6 matches which they won quite comprehensively including winning the first test 22-13 and the second test 30-16. Errol Tobias –the first black player to represent South Africa- was also on that tour. In 1982 as mentioned above the Springboks beat the Jaguars 50-18 in Pretoria. The pictures below show some action from that first test which saw Danie Gerber scoring three tries, Carel du Plessis scoring his first test try as well as tries by Willie du Plessis and Ray Mordt (2). Ray Mordt in particular scored a stunning try shrugging of two defenders on his way to his try.
Danie Gerber scoring the first of his three tries after a long run next to the right hand touch line.
Carel du Plessis playing in his first test match on his way to score his first test try.
Ray Mordt shrugging of two defenders on his way to a spectacular try.
Johan Heunis estabished himself after the 1981 New Zealand tour as the test fullback and cemented that position with a solid performance in the first test.
A week later Porta orchestrated a historic victory mentioned at the start of this piece.
There was one more encounter between the Springboks and the Jaguars namely in 1984. The Springbok team that played in two test matches against the Jaguars in 1984 can be seen in the picture below. Divan Serfontein was the captain and players like Anton Barnard, Attie Strauss, Kulu Ferreira, Nick Mallet and Michael du Plessis were test debutants. Naas Botha was in the United States playing American Football and that opened the door for Errol Tobias. Tobias also played against England in June of 1984 so this was his 3rd and 4th starts in a test match.
South Africa met the Pumas for the first time in 1993 on the rugby field touring to South America. The Springboks won the two rest matches 29-26 and 52-23 respectively. The next year Argentina toured for the first time since 1965 as the Pumas to South Africa They played two test matches; one in Port Elizabeth which they lost 42-22 and one in Johannesburg which they lost 46-26.
There was another tour to South America in 1996 before that crazy match in 2000 when eccentric coach Harry Viljoen forbade the Springboks to kick and they came close to losing; winning 37-33 in the end.
The closest the Pumas came to a victory was in Port Elizabeth in 2003 when a last-minute penalty goal by Louis Koen won the match for the Springboks.
The introduction of the Pumas into the four nation South Hemisphere tournament is a new chapter in the history of test matches between South Africa and South America and judging by how the Pumas played at Newlands they will be competitive and might become increasingly harder to beat.