I stumbled upon the Springbok story of 1937 in an old bookstore on Long Street, Cape Town in 2011. Little did I know at the time, that this laughably obscure story about a tour which took place more than forty years before I was born, would change my life.

But there was something in that obscure old story caught my eye, and so, purely for personal curiosity, I began the hunt for more information on the tour. A process which ultimately led me to the personal scrap books and photo albums of some of these long-forgotten Sprigboks.

And it was in wading through these beautifully preserved albums and scrap books, that I discovered a collection of amazing anecdotes. Amongst many others, the team’s unlikely, but amazing relationship with the Maori people; their young Jewish star from the Free State who would make his way into Hitler’s bunker; and the many amusing antics of a famous gentleman-thug called Boy Louw.

And to me, these anecdotes extended beyond the chalk lines. They offered instead a glimpse into the beauty of the human spirit. For many of them fought in the war and several lived most remarkable lives.


And having researched this obscure team for many months, much to my wife’s looks of disbelief, I was persuaded to tell their story to a formal gathering in 2012 to mark the 75th anniversary of the tour.

And so began a very special journey for me. I have subsequently travelled the country with this team, telling the story to consistently overwhelming feedback.

Now it is hard to articulate what does make this obscure old story special, but to say that I have told this story close to 50 times and every single time I have told it I have been confronted with raw emotion in my audience.

For it is as much a human story as it is a rugby story. This was a time where values trumped the desire to win, notwithstanding the incredible passion with which rugby was played in the 1930s.

And having lived through this amazing tour and the war that followed it, it is tough to comprehend that these men are no more.

All that remains is their memory, and an always timely reminder of what is truly important in life and legacy.