Flashback: England sneak past South Africa

Date published: December 20 2016

In the latest edition of our series, we look back at this week in history and pick out a key moment from rugby’s archives.

England were able to down the Springboks 11-8 at Twickenham. The game became a political affair as anti-Apartheid protests marched on the Springbok team bus to object to the oppressive regime in the African country.

December 20, 1969

It was a historical time for the Springboks as the international community shunned the European tour with South Africa still under the grip of the racist Apartheid regime. The RFU would eventually declare that the 1969-1970 tour would be the last time South Africa would be allowed to play England in England until the system of Apartheid was eradicated.

England captain Bob Hiller was said to be reason for the English win, as his spirited pre-match speech included an overhead projector that apparently led to England’s rambunctious performance.

A large crowd came out to watch the game, with 62000 people in the stands. South Africa drew first blood when fly-half Piet Visagie scored a penalty in the sixth minute, which they then compounded with a try, giving them a solid lead going into the 30th minute of the game.

England weren’t keen on giving South Africa such a leg-up going into change room and scored a five-pointer of their own in the 37th minute through second-row Larter, who missed the conversion which saw the half time score read 8-3 to the visitors.

It was all England after that though as Hillier would get his kicking back on track though with a penalty 20 minutes into the second half. England hooker John Pullin would then cross over the line and Hillier added the two points.

When England coach Don White was asked how he motivated his side he said, “I told them there was no room in this set-up for fairies.”

The scorers: 

For England:
Larter, Pullin
Cons: Hiller
Pens: Hiller

For South Africa:
Cons: Visagie
Pens: Visagie

England: 15 Bob Hiller (c), 14 Keith Fielding, 13 John Spencer, 12 David Duckham, 11 Peter Hale, 10 Roger Shackleton, 9 Nigel Starmer-Smith, 8 Bob Taylor, 7 Bryan West, 6 Tony Bucknall, 5 Peter Larter, 4 Mike Davis, 3 Keith Fairbrother, 2 John Pullin, 1 Stack Stevens

South Africa: 15 HO de Villiers, 14 Syd Nomis, 13 Tonie Roux, 12 Eben Olivier, 11 Andy van der Watt, 10 Piet Visagie, 9 Dawie de Villiers (c), 8 Tommy Bedford, 7 Albie Bates, 6 Piet Greyling, 5 Sakkie de Klerk, 4 Andre de Wet 3 Hannes Marais 2 Don Walton 1 Mof Myburgh

Referee: KD Kelleher (Ireland)