We all enjoyed the great victory of Munster over the South African side at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Thursday, where Rory & Niall Scannell represented us so well. Let’s look at the other three fixtures with South African sides.
December 1951 at Thomond Park saw South Africa play Munster for the first time, already having defeated Ulster and Ireland by 17-5. Munster were represented by four of the of Irish side, Jim McCarthy, John O’Meara, Mick Lane & Tom Clifford. Many gave them little hope, the Springboks boasted the physically strongest squad of players of that era, and it was felt that the Munster pack was too light and the threequarters attack was not strong. If you were not able to attend, you could always tune into Radio Eireann as Dolphin’s W G Twomey was the match commentator.
There was a significant Dolphin representation on the side, captained by Jim McCarthy, also in the forwards was Derry Donnery & Gerald Reidy. In the backs were future Dolphin players John O’Meara and Mick Lane. Jim Roche was listed as Garryowen, yet he was playing for Dolphin the following month.
Scrum half John O’Meara went blind from a scrum inside the “25”, kicked ahead and McCarthy won the race to score a try.
With the game level at 6-6, Mick Lane fielded a cross kick on his own 10-yard line, raced up along the side line and with Jim McCarthy on his inside, he passed to McCarthy who returned the pass only for the Ulster Referee Ossie Glasgow called it forward.
That was not the way Jim McCarthy saw it, in an interview 15 years ago- “So I handed – not passed, mind- the ball to Lane who was that close, and he went over for a try that we were sure would win the match. You can imagine our feeling when the referee Ossie Glasgow, who was back around the halfway line, disallowed the score for a forward pass.” A photo appeared in the Cork Examiner which appeared to confirm the pass was ok.
The visitors had few opportunities, but they took one late in the game to earn a converted try and an 11-6 victory.
The 2nd visit by South Africa was to Musgrave Park in 1960. There were no Dolphin representatives this time, the Boks scored a late try to win by 9-3.
The 3rd and most recent fixture was in 1970, it was subject to Anti-Apartheid protests, the Ulster fixture had been cancelled on the advice of the RUC. Unions refused to cater for the South Africans and there was great difficulty in securing transport and accommodation, but they were finally resolved.
When the South African side arrived at Dublin Airport, protestors tried to block them leaving the airport- they were escorted to the hotel in Bray, the Post Office Officials Association cut off telephone contact with the hotel. It was interesting to note that sightseeing around Dublin included lunch in Dail Eireann.
6,000 people took part in a march to Lansdowne Road before the International, after the game a Garda baton charge was required on pickets outside the Shelbourne Hotel where an IRFU reception was taking place.
Widespread disorder was predicted in Limerick ahead of the Munster fixture, 400 Gardai being on duty. When they arrived by train at Colbert Station, they were met by 200 greeting them with banners and flags, while there were less than 20 on the Anti-Apartheid picket. On match day, this number swelled to 350 of which only 30 were thought to be local, including three Jesuit Priests.
The game itself was all ticket, very unusual for a game at that time, all tickets were distributed through clubs with none for general sale. It meant they were able to keep the protesters 200 yards from the main gate. The only trouble at the grounds was when a Munster supporter threw an egg at a Protester, missed, and hit a Garda.
As for the rugby, Munster were comprehensively beaten by 25-9, the papers identified Phil O’Callaghan as one of the few who stood up against the South African’s. Philo “was a fiery figure, particularly in loose play and in the mauls”.