A decade of SARFU - 1992 - 2001
The great years in the first ten years of the existence of the South African Rugby Football Union were undoubtedly 1992, when unity was forged, 1995 when the World Cup was won, and 1997-98 when the Springboks won 17 successive tests and the Vodacom Tri-Nations Tournament.
23 March: The highlight, without doubt, in a sense the greatest highlight in 130 years of the game in South Africa, was the unification of the national bodies in South Africa, signed at the Kimberley Sun Hotel.
Kimberley was chosen as the venue for it had been the founding city of the SA Rugby Football Board in 1889 and the SA Coloured Rugby Board in 1896.
Impetus had been given to unification when Dr Danie Craven and Dr Louis Luyt, to the annoyance of the government of the day met with the ANC and a SARU delegation, led by Mr Ebrahim Patel. The eventual driving force in the unity process was the late Mr Steve Tshwete, who later became the minister of sport in the 1994 government.
The new body was to be known as the South African Rugby Football Union with its headquarters at Newlands. All committees were shared. The first presidents were Dr Danie Craven (executive) and Mr Ebrahim Patel.
Unification meant readmission into international rugby. The Springboks played five tests, and a SA Development team toured the South Pacific.
That year the International Rugby Board awarded the 1995 Rugby World Cup to South Africa.
The game had changed since the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cups from which South Africa had been excluded and in the five internationals played that year, South Africa lost to New Zealand, to Australia by a record score, to France in France for the first time and to England by a record score. The French defeat was also a record against France. The only victory was against France in Lyons.
The Springbok coach was John Williams. Naas Botha was the captain.
4 January: Dr Danie Craven died at his home in Stellenbosch.
Mr Ebrahim Patel was the executive president of SARFU with Professor Fritz Eloff as co-president.
The Springboks played seven tests. They lost a series to France in South Africa and a series to Australia in Australia. They won both tests in Argentina.
James Small became the first South African ever sent off in a test match - for verbal abuse to the referee, Ed Morrison.
The Springbok coach was Ian McIntosh. Francois Pienaar was the captain.
The SA Barbarians toured the UK. The Springbok Sevens team played in the Hong Kong Sevens and the inaugural Sevens World Cup, reaching the quarter-finals of both.
Three South African teams took part in the Super 10 competition - Transvaal, Northern Transvaal and Natal. Transvaal became the first winners of the Super 10. They also won the Currie Cup and the Lion Cup.
Dr Louis Luyt became the new president of SARFU.
The Springboks toured New Zealand, losing the series 2-0 with the third test drawn.
There was much controversy surrounding the tour - the sending home of prop Johan le Roux for biting Sean Fitzpatrick's ear, the sacking of the coach Ian McIntosh and an attempt to sack the manager, Jannie Engelbrecht as well.
Kitch Christie replaced Ian McIntosh as the Springbok coach and began an unbeaten sequence of 14 tests with two home victories against Argentina and then away wins against Wales and Scotland.
The South African Under 19 team went to the FIRA International Tournament for the first time and, captained by Corné Krige, won the tournament, beating Italy in the final.
The South African Sevens team again reached the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Sevens.
Natal lost to Queensland in the Final of the Super 10. Transvaal won the Currie Cup.
1995 was a most momentous year in the history of rugby football as the game decided in Paris that it would cease to be "amateur" and become officially professional, a concept embraced in all major countries bar Argentina.
This came about after the best Rugby World Cup organised in the decade - and organised in South Africa and won by South Africa.
In 1994 South Africa had had its first democratic elections and formed its first democratic government, casting fears of revolution aside and embracing hope as never before.
That hope burst into rainbow colour with the Rugby World Cup, seemingly blessing the new nation so desperate for success and affirmation.
It started at Newlands with an opening ceremony of South African splendour, putting to flight all the prophets of doom who had said that South Africa could not host such an event.
It was an emotional day, crowned by the Springboks' decisive victory over Australia in the opening match.
It was not all joy and light. There was a drab match against Romania and an ugly match in Port Elizabeth when the lights failed and three players, including Springbok James Dalton, were sent off.
There was the ghastly injury to Max Britto of the Ivory Coast that left him paralysed.
There was the nasty quarter-final match between the Springboks and Samoa. And all the while the All Blacks were ruling the roost.
Then came the day in the flood at King's park and a match nearly cancelled for the torrents of rain - and then the tide of defence that stopped Abdelatif Benazzi inches form the Springbok line to let the Springboks into the final against the All Blacks with rugby's most feared weapon, big Jonah Lomu.
Nobody who was in South Africa will forget the final - the closing ceremony the SAA Jumbo that flew over head, Nelson Mandela in a No. 6 Springbok jersey, extra time and Joel Stransky's dropped goal which won the match, the most famous kick in rugby's history.
Then there was the almost religious fervour as Francois Pienaar held the golden cup aloft while all around shouted their own alleluias.
South Africa danced in the streets that night - all the streets, from the Cape Flats to Soweto, from Cape Augulus to the Limpopo.
As if too much had been given, the Pandora's box of the World Cup also contained spite and bickering and the danger that rugby would flounder on the rock of professionalism and the war between Rupert Murdoch and Kerry packer, a situation saved by the decisive action of SARFU and its president Louis Luyt.
Natal won the Bankfin-Currie Cup, Transvaal had a players' boycott, South Africa came second in the Southern Hemisphere Under-21 Tournament in Argentina, lost in the semi-final of the FIRA Under 19 tournament and the Springboks were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Sevens.
Two important decisions were made - to reduce the provinces from 22 to 14 and to introduce quotas into all SARFU teams except the Springboks and the top team of each province.
At the end of the year the Springboks, with no visible sign of strain, defeated Wales at Ellis Park and then Italy in Rome and England at Twickenham.
As if South Africa had had too much in 1995, there were problems in 1996.
Kitch Christie, ill with cancer, was forced to retire as coach - an unbeaten coach. André Markgraaff succeeded him.
South Africa played New Zealand five times in 1996, losing four times - twice in the new Tri-Nations, in which the Springboks came second, and twice during the All Blacks' first series victory in South Africa.
Francois Pienaar, the iconic captain of 1995, was not selected for the tour to Argentina and Europe at the end of the year, to a raucous outcry from the nation.
The tour went well with two test victories over the Pumas in Argentina, two over France in France and one over Wales.
It was also the year of the first Super 12 competition, won by the Auckland Blues who beat Natal in the final.
The Sevens Springboks reached the final of the World Sevens in Hong Kong, losing to Fiji in a close final.
The South African A team toured the UK and Ireland.
Natal won the Bankfin-Currie Cup.
The under 19 team was unbeaten at the FIRA tournament but "lost" a draw with Wales on a technicality.
The first year of professional rugby was expensive and problematic.
The second year of professionalism was also problematic.
The year started in the worst way possible with the resignation of the Springbok coach, André Markgraaff following the revelation of surreptitiously taped remarks of a racist nature. Carel du Plessis was appointed coach in his place.
On the playing front there seemed no real cause for concern. The Springboks had ended well in 1996, and the South African teams were not disgraced in the Super 12, which the Auckland Blues won.
The international season was disaster after disaster. The Springboks lost a series to a mediocre British Lions team and then went on to a record defeat by the All Blacks before it ended the season with a record victory over the Wallabies - too late to save Du Plessis's coaching job.
Western Province won the Bankfin-Currie Cup, and then new coach Nick Mallett got his team together, and off they went to Europe.
On that tour the Springboks were to play the most sublime rugby of the decade.
The splendid Springboks played the last test to be played at Parc des Princes before the move to Stade de France. They gave France their biggest defeat ever as they scored seven tries, four by winger Pieter Rossouw.
The Springboks then gave England their heaviest defeat at Twickenham and Scotland their heaviest defeat ever as they scored 54 points in the second half to win 68-10.
Whilst things were improving on the Springbok front, matters were degenerating on the SARFU front as the government, at the prompting of Steve Tshwete, the minister of sport, instigated a process of inquiry into the affairs of SARFU.
In October SARFU challenged the validity of the government's inquiry into rugby in court.
The court business got going in February and on 19 March 1998 President Nelson Mandela appeared in court to defend his action in sanctioning the inquiry. It was a horrible time for rugby.
SARFU won the case, but then Louis Luyt, after a SARFU vote of no-confidence in him, resigned on 10 May 1998, to be replaced as president by Silas Nkanunu.
SARFU introduced regionalisation in the Super 12, dividing the country into four regions.
The Coastal Sharks, Natal at heart, were the only regional team to perform at all well. Certainly the results were a lot worse than those of the provinces had been. The Coastal Sharks were third, the Western Stormers ninth, the Northern Bulls eleventh and the Golden Cats 12th.
The Vodacom Cup for provincial teams, with, for the first time, quotas of black players in each team, ran concurrently with the Super 12. Griqualand West were the first winners.
Western Samoa knocked the Springboks out of the Hong Kong sevens in the semi-final and out of the Commonwealth Games Sevens in the quarter-final.
The SANZAR Under 21 tournament was in South Africa. The home side came third behind Australia and Argentina.
The Lions won the Bankfin-Currie Cup.
The Springboks fought two tests against Ireland and then beat Wales and England, before winning the Tri-Nations unbeaten, including a 24-23 victory over New Zealand when the Springboks were down 23-5 with 12 minutes to go.
At the end of the year, a tour too far, the Springboks, losing lustre by the match, went off to Europe yet again. They came from behind to beat Wales, eventually beat Scotland, and profited from some individual brilliance to beat Ireland and equal the world record of 17 successive test victories before dragging themselves to Twickenham and defeat by England.
World Cup year again - and the dropping of Gary Teichmann to uproar. Joost van der Westhuizen became the captain in an uninspiring World Cup, but for an exhilarating victory of France over New Zealand in the semi-final and the Springboks' quarter-final defeat of England in Paris when Jannie de Beer kicked a record of five drop-goals. The Springboks lost the no-try semi-final to Australia in extra time and then beat the All Blacks for third place.
André Watson of South Africa, at his first World Cup as a referee, refereed the final between Australia and France.
Generally it was a lacklustre year for the Springboks as they lost to Wales for the first time ever and won only one Tri-Nations match.
The Stormers were the best Super 12 side as they surged ahead on a tide of black, but they squabbled about money before a home semi-final and lost.
The best playing achievement in 1999 was the victory over the Under 21 side at the eight-team SANZAR tournament in Buenos Aires when they beat New Zealand 27-25 in a thrilling final, scoring three tries to one.
The highlight of the year was probably the Yesterday's Heroes campaign that saw SARFU honour in splendid fashion all the players of the past who had played tests for the various national bodies which existed from time to time.
Transformation gathered pace. For the first time quotas of black players were introduced into the Bankfin-Currie Cup. There were nine black players on the huge Springbok team that toured at the end of the year.
After sharing a home series with England, the Springboks came last in the Tri-Nations with only an exciting victory over the All Blacks.
The aftermath of that defeat was the resignation of Nick Mallett and his replacement with Harry Viljoen.
Mallett had coached the Springboks through 38 tests - by far the most by any Springbok coach.
In the Super 12 the Cats made the semi-final.
In the IRB's first World Sevens Series the Springboks came fifth.
The Under 21 team reached the final of the SANZAR championship, only to be thrashed by New Zealand.
The Under 19 team came sixth in the FIRA Championship.
France beat South Africa in the final of the Students World Cup.
The Confederation of African Rugby was inaugurated. South Africa was represented by the Under 23 team which won the southern half of the tournament by beating Namibia and Zimbabwe and then went on to beat Morocco in the final.
Western Province won the Bankfin-Currie Cup.
At the end of the year the Boks toured Argentina, Ireland, Wales and England on a nine-match tour. They beat Argentina, Ireland and Wales and lost to England. They also lost midweek matches to Ireland A and the England National Divisional XV, but they beat the Barbarians in splendid fashion as they ran and ran.
The growing commercialisation of the game led to the restructuring of rugby with SARFU approving the creation of a commercial arm, SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd. The company, with a board of directors, looks after competitions and all commercial enterprises, whilst SARFU, as the custodian of the game, looks after all non-commercial aspects of rugby, predominantly game development.
On the field things looked better initially as two South African teams made the Super 12 semi-finals the Cats and the Sharks.
France, looking young and uncertain, shared a series in South Africa, and South Africa came last in the Tri-Nations - an interesting last as they beat and drew with the eventual winners, Australia.
At the end of the year the Springbok lost to France and England, and then let players off to play for the Barbarians while they went on to the USA and an unimpressive performance in Houston.
The Sevens Springboks lost to Argentina in the quarter-final of the Sevens World Cup and again ended fifth in the IRB World Series.
A South African A team toured France, Georgia, England and Spain successfully.
The Under 23 team retained their Confederation of African Rugby Cup when they again beat Morocco in the final.
The Under 21s had a poor tournament ending ranked sixth after losing to Ireland.
The Under 19s were placed fifth in the FIRA-AER Junior World Championship played in Chile after losing to the eventual winners, New Zealand, in the quarter-finals.
Western Province retained the Bankfin-Currie Cup.