The social effect
It is amazing how short the general rugby public’s memory is. Social media has provided a platform for all and sundry to make public statements about the greatest Springboks ever. Someone recently even nominated one of the modern era players as the best player in the history of the game. This is of course all utter nonsense. These claims usually just demonstrate that the person does not know much about the history of the Springboks or the game and that he lacks sound judgement.
It is not possible to compare players from different eras, nor is it fair to compare professional players with the amateurs of days gone by. It is true that some amateur Springboks would probably not cut the grade in the modern professional game, but some of today’s players would also have struggled in the amateur game.
When I think of Springbok rugby, I think about four distinct eras: (i) The pre-World War I era; (ii) the era between the two World Wars; (iii) the post-World War II era that lasted until 1995; and (iv) the professional era that commenced in 1996.
The sad thing is that the great Springboks of earlier eras seem to be largely forgotten by today’s followers of the game. How many of the ‘experts’ on social media know anything about Fairy Heatlie, Japie Krige, Bob Loubser, Uncle Dobbin, Dougie Morkel, Boy Morkel (the “Prince of Forwards”), Gerhard Morkel (the “Prince of Fullbacks”), Phil Mostert, Pierre Albertyn, Bennie Osler, Boy Louw, Jan Lotz, Hennie Muller, Hannes Brewis, Chris Koch, Jaap Bekker, or Otto van Niekerk (who never became a Springbok but was one of our best wingers ever), and Floors Duvenage (who became a Springbok only in 1949 when his best years were way behind him)? These were all GREAT players, in their day probably the best in the world in their position or very close to it. Most of them would probably also have fared very well in today’s professional era.
Fortunately, there are rugby historians like Chris Schoeman, and others, who can remind us of the great players and the glory days of the past.
Article Written by Willem Frost