The hope and heartbreak of the almost-Springboks
Farmer's Weekly|July 30, 2021
Graham Jooste tells of some great South African rugby players who saw bad communication, injury, politics, and inexplicably bad luck shatter their hopes of Springbok glory.
Graham Jooste

In 1981, the then Eastern Transvaal’s tough center, Jannie Els, took part in trials to choose a side to play against the touring Ireland rugby team. The news that he had made the Springbok squad was conveyed to him by Ben Erwee, the secretary of the Eastern Transvaal Rugby Union, after receiving a call from a Johannesburg newspaper.

The reporter told Erwee he had received the list of players chosen from a reliable source and that Els was on that list. However, when the Springbok team was officially announced, Els was not on the list.

Dr. Danie Craven, president of the South African Rugby Union, later said: “One of the most heartbreaking moments of my life was to inform Jannie he had not been chosen. How can somebody do that to a person?”

We shall probably never know the actual truth behind this story. But that was certainly no consolation to the devastated Els.

The luck of the Irish deserted John Robbie when he was twice chosen for the Springboks as a reserve player and never ran onto the field in the green and gold. Although he was presented with his Springbok jersey, he never wore it again as a sign of respect for his fellow Springboks and his adopted country.

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