St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Rugby St George's Park - WE Maclagan's 1891 British Tour of South Africa - First Test
WE Maclagan's 1891 British Tour of South Africa - First Test
Port Elizabeth - July 30, 1891

The first international match, in which a representative team from South Africa took part, was played at Port Elizabeth where “the pavilion was again crowded with ladies, all intent on the game”. (Quotation from The Cape Times).

A lot was expected from the South African team, and the crowd of 6,000 were not disappointed in the football produced that day. It is true that Maclagan, according to the practice in vogue in those days, had to claim several penalties, all of which were granted; it is also true that many marks were caught, and dropped goals attempted, also according to the demands of the game, but the dribbling rushes which were executed with such success by both sides and which sometimes covered the whole length of the field kept the crowd and the ladies on their toes.

South Africa were on the attack from the kickoff, and only well-judged kicks to touch kept them out. Whenever the British team came near the posts they tried drops, all unsuccessfully, fortunately!

Eventually they caught the South African defence napping and Wotherspoon was able to send Aston, the brilliant centre, over to “plant a try”. 1 - 0.

The Britons remained on the attack until Bissett led a good rush down the field, and nearly scored. The next minute the Britons were back, and Vigne, Boyes and Guthrie defended well.

Again the forwards broke away with the ball at their feet and dribbled the whole length of the field. It cost the Britons everything they knew to keep the South Africans out, but when the South Africans dropped a pass Clauss secured and kicked high.

The ball was mulled and the British forwards raced up liked hares to boot the ball along. When the ball bounced right it was picked up and Wotherspoon, Bromet, Clauss and Whittaker all handled before the latter went over for a beautiful try which Rotherham converted. 4 - 0.

After this first try the South Africans played like Trojans. First Alexander broke away and the ball went from him to Guthrie, Richards and Boyes. The latter’s pass was unfortunately intercepted when a try looked certain.

Then Merry and Castens were stopped on the line, Maclagan relieving after he had claimed a penalty. Bissett brought the game back to the British line where the Britons defended grimly. Just before half-time the play swung up and down, but the South Africans more then held their own.

During the interval the two teams received “instructions from well-known backers of either side” and enjoyed “lemons and sundry”.

The advice given to the British team, apparently, stood them in good stead, for they were soon on the attack. Castens and Little, however, broke away in a great forward dribbling rush, and were joined by Vigne and Richards who were stopped by Mitchell near the British line.

Next it was Versfeld’s turn to dribble through. At this stage several dropped goals were tried by both teams, some of them kicked into the field of play as an attacking method. Richards, Boyes and Vigne came very near to scoring, but Maclagan saved brilliantly.

A short while afterwards Vigne just missed with a drop. The fitness of the tourists was in evidence at this stage, because there was always somebody to stop any movement undertaken by the home side, and when the whistle blew a great cheer went up as an appreciation of the fine football witnessed by the crowd.

Final Score:
Britain: 4 - South Africa: 0.

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