The Springboks: World Rugby's bad boys! - Green and Gold Rugby
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The Springboks: World Rugby’s bad boys!

The Springboks: World Rugby’s bad boys!

Two Yellow Cards, and two players cited, within the space of a week leads us to ask the question. Are the Springboks the biggest cheats in World Rugby? Coach Peter de Villiers seemingly believes that his team doesn’t cheat enough, using that as yet another excuse for his team’s loss to the All Blacks last week.

De Villiers has been quoted as saying

“I don’t like to prepare the guys to cheat and it seems to me (it is) the only way going forward”

in frustration at his perception of how the rules have been applied of late. Well Green and Gold Rugby can reveal that the Springboks are the most sanctioned team in World Rugby using figures taken from the completion of the 2007 Rugby World Cup until now.

The current World Champions have been issued with a staggering 16 yellow cards over the last two and a half years. All under the domain of de Villiers. So when he asks the question as to whether they need to cheat more, just how far further does he think they need to go?

The fact that eight of his team named to take on the Wallabies on Saturday have been sent to the bin within his reign, seems to indicate that Peter is more than happy to condone this ill-discipline. The gang of eight (Butch James, CJ van der Linde, Dannie Rossouw, Jacque Fourie, Morne Steyn, Ryan Kankowski, Schalk Burger and Victor Matfield) would almost definitely have been joined by the suspended Bakkies Botha and the injured Bismarck du Plessis on this inglorious list, had they been available.

The Wallabies, on the other hand, have had just seven players shown yellow during a test since 2008.

The Sprinboks have an unlikely ally in the sanction department however. That of the ‘not so pure in white’ English team. The Poms trail the Boks by two cards over the same period and went through a particular horror spell a couple of years ago. The thing with the Poms, however, is that their coach Martin Johnson has identified ill discipline as a big issue for them to turn them around. The Bok coach wants his team to cheat more!

Below is a table of the (current) top sixteen ranked countries in World Rugby and how many Yellow and Red Cards they’ve received since the completion of the 2007 RWC, up until now.

Country Yellows Reds Total
South Africa 16 0 16
England 14 0 14
Italy 13 0 13
Japan 9 1 10
New Zealand 9 0 9
Argentina 9 0 9
Wales 8 0 8
Australia 7 0 7
Ireland 5 1 6
Scotland 6 0 6
Fiji 6 0 6
USA 5 1 6
Samoa 4 1 5
France 5 0 5
Tonga 4 0 4
Canada 3 0 3

The table shows that South Africa are also the World Champions of ill-discipline, co-incidentally with the 2007 RWC runner-up, the runner up on this ladder too. In third spot is the Nick Mallet (former Bok coach) led Italians, whilst Japan is the only other country in double figures.

But let’s see who the real trouble makers are. The 13 repeat offenders.

Player Country Yellows Reds Totals
Rodrigo Roncero ARG 4 0 4
Paul Emerick USA 2 1 3
Mike Tindall ENG 3 0 3
Gonzalo Garcia ITY 3 0 3
Ronan O’Gara IRL 2 0 0
Santiago Dellape’ ITY 2 0 2
Richard Brown AUS 2 0 2
James Haskell ENG 2 0 2
Graham Dewes FIJ 2 0 2
Bakkies Botha SAF 2 0 2
Nathan Hines SCO 2 0 2
Lee Byrne WAL 2 0 2
Martyn Williams WAL 2 0 2

As you can see Argentina’s hardnosed prop Rodrigo Roncero leads the way with four separate cardable offenses. Ok, so fine, a Puma prop leads the way. I guess not totally beyond the realm of reality. Somewhat surprising is that next, in equal second position, are three centres! Not far behind RoRo are Englishman Mike Tindall, Seppo Paul Emerick and Italian Gonzalo Garcia.  Each have received three on-field sanctions, however Emerick stands out for having been served a red, to go with his two yellows.

Then there are a bench full of dual offenders including Richard Brown, from Saturday’s Wallabies team, and Bakkies Botha who would have been turning out for the Boks, had he not been suspended for head butting Jimmy Cowan.

But let’s not make out that the Springboks are the only bad guys. They may well have met their match. In Georgia.

In their 21 games since RWC2007, Georgia have had 19 yellow cards served against their players. That’s almost one a match! Come the next RWC in New Zealand, they’ve been drawn with England, so let’s just hope the IRB sets aside an extra big bench for the sin bin that night.

  • Barbarian

    No Richie McCaw? What a surprise. Surprised how high Japan are seeings as they don’t play as many tests as the other top tier nations. Also surprised the frogs are so low, given their reputation for below the belt shenanigans.

    • Garry

      No Richie McCaw?

      Surprising that No.s 7s don’t top the list. But the way the games evolving, we may expect that to change as time goes by.

  • jase

    so what we can deduce from these figures is that its not one saffa that is a dirty cheat and raising the figures it is more like 99% of them making a bad name for the rest of em

  • Joel

    Richie doesn’t get yellow-carded. He gets player of the year awards from the IRB despite being injured for 6 months of that year.

    Seeing as New Zealand should really be on 11 from last week there’s not much more to say.

    The Boks are still struggling to clean up their game and get distance from the thug era pre-Jake White, but progress has been made.

    • Mark

      Interesting comments… New Zealand really should have had 11, here’s a fact – they don’t.

  • Rocky Elboa

    Can we see yellow and red cards as a percentage of games played?
    Also would be interesting to see some citing and suspension stats, guess is SA will lead the way in this area followed by France and the Italy

  • D

    Progress has been made? They are on a yellow card a game streak and a suspension a week. They must be dirtier than I thought.

    The McCaw player of the year award was BS last year and everybody knows it. He must have gotten the award for the player who cheats the most and never gets carded for it.

  • Good article mate. Interesting seeing the card table pulled out. 16, quite a number for the Boks!

    ‘Richie doesn’t get yellow-carded. He gets player of the year awards from the IRB despite being injured for 6 months of that year.’ Classic Joel. Thought NZ had more cards.

    Cheats in the context of bending the rules? I’d say they just play a very foul game of rugby and top this off with a slight losing streak, you won’t hear the end of the excuses. There’s a visual difference between playing hard, competitive rugby and foul, thug-like driven rugby.
    Those cards tell a tale, they are definitly the bad boys of rugby.

  • JJJ

    You’ll never convince SA supporters that their beloved boks deserved even half of those yellow cards.

  • Garry


    one aspect that I feel the Boks have become very good at is the professional foul.

    When defending their own tryline, when all seems lost, rather than concede a try they will concede a penalty, usually ruck related or offside (killing the ball, off their feet, offside in the ruck, offside in the backs). If they don’t get penalised, the result is often slow/stop the play or a turnover.

    The rational is concede 3 rather than 5 or 7 for the try, get back down field for the restart, play the game down the other end, where their super-boots have better luck at kicking goals from any penalties arising.

    But they feel out the Ref. By the second half, when he’s getting angry at the tactic, they desist. But often someone on the opposition will get yellow carded for the next related indiscretion.

    What seems to stop it is, if that aspect of the game is a personal bug-bear of the ref and he sin-bins someone early. It happened in a WC game Boks v Wales, & I thinks wales won it. But that very rarely happens. Generally, the northern hemisphere refs aren’t onto that aspect as quickly.

    In my rose coloured memory, this facet of the Saffers game has pissed me off since they came back from exclusion. So I’m assuming that it is a coached tactic. Frankly I am surprised that the Boks have had as many cards, I don’t see it happening enough. If we deserve to have the Refs’ influenced by the media by our scrummaging, let the Boks carry the mill stone of biggest cheats.

    Shout it from the highest tree.

    (If this comment seems biased, guilty as charged. The two things I enjoy about rugby, watching the WB’s, and anyone beating the Boks. So thanks for the spray, I’ll cancel this weeks therapist’s appointment)

  • Zeno

    It’s a shame that Dick Brown has this black yellow mark beside his name. If I remember rightly, the offences he was binned for were:

    1. coming in from an angle, he scrounged a breakdown ball that had rolled clear of the tackled player, and the ref pinged him for not-through-the-gate; and

    2. one of those lift-and-drive-back tackles that turns ugly when the tackled player turns and steers himself head-first to the ground.

    Both rulings were highly arguable, but they happened, and the Wallabies paid heavily for them on the day.

    • Bobas

      number one was actually coming into the ruck from the absolute wrong side inside his defensive 22. When Australia had numbers in defence and didn’t look like conceding a try.

      Cant remember his other one.

  • dpo

    de Villiers is referring to the appearance that the AB’s seem to be continually offside in the rucks etc without getting pinged for it. Not the Thuggery the boks are known for.

  • Batmann

    De Villiers is just a big girl having a whinge because his team is losing & getting caught doing dirty, illegal things, but you are right that NZ seem to get away with what no other team can in most matches with some players simply untouchable when it comes to yellow cards.

    I think he was also complaining about Rangers tackle with supposedly no arms, which on replay was clearly a hard LEGAL tackle.

    The big problem however is usually the citing commissioner who somehow misses half of the acts of thuggery that go unseen in the actual game & then the judiciary who are NEVER consistent. If SANZAR fixed that, there would be less of this stuff happening.

  • Craig Dodge

    I agree with Garry very much, I have noticed the kiwis doing the same thing when they are just in front and in the dying moments of the game and are in danger of having a try scored against them.

  • Chuck

    While the Boks are definitely known for their physical approach, it does seem that they are sometimes unfairly targeted by referees because of this. Jean De Villiers wasn’t penalised for his spear tackle yet was cited after the match and given a 2 week ban. Where was Rene Ranger’s citing..? Where was Richie McCaw’s yellow card after 5 penalties and numerous warnings..? While the ARU and Australian players and fans wouldn’t stand for this (Giteau even managed to have his choice of ref in the Super 14) it seems SA are always too eager to appease and not stand up to authority. To give you a better idea – here are former ref, Andre Watson’s comments on Allain Rolland’s performance last week –

    “I looked at the ref, and he made some brilliant decisions and some not-so-good decisions,” Watson said.

    “I can’t say if the Boks got a raw deal from the referee because if I do say that that is the case, then South Africa will love me and the rest of the world will hate me, and if I don’t feel that way, it will be the other way around.”

    Come on Andre Watson, say what you think! The same goes for the SA media who are diplomatic to the point of supporting the opposition at times (read Joel Stransky and co..) Bob Skinstad seems to be trying to set a new tone but is perhaps going overboard on his support of SA. That said, I find it refreshing at times and even enjoy Phil Kearns’ commentary as he is unashamedly biased towards the Wallabies.

    Also given the fact that the Stormers were the most disciplined side in the Super 14 this year, are the Boks not getting a raw deal..?

  • Mark

    @chuck No they’re not getting a raw deal, you head butt some and you’re out. Spear tackle someone and your out… Rangers tackle has been shown over and over… and as the rules say, as long as theirs an arm in there somehere then all’s fair (or he would have been cited).
    McCaw was warned (numerous times but that goes with the position). Have a relook and you’ll see some warnings that appreared to be his where in fact for other players (you can tell this by when the ref advises him to talk to the player, remember he is the captain).

    It’s interesting the comments that have been made on numerous rugby sites… they seem to follow this theme:

    1. Ritchie McCaw’s a cheat
    2. The Ref’s are cheats
    3. The IRB are cheats
    4. Kiwi’s are above the law
    5. The Kiwi’s are ‘peaking’ now and will choke in the world cup

    Any thing else? Did I miss anything?

    Does anyone really believe that? Really?

    • Chuck

      @Mark – Fair comment Mark and no, I don’t really believe all of the above. Richie McCaw pushes the limits of the law as any good flanker would – what I am inclined to ask, however, is this – If Richie were in a Bok jersey, do you think he would have gathered more splinters than Schalk Burger by now..?

    • You don’t think McCaw is a cheat? Really?

  • Mark

    Comment test… cant see to reply

  • Springboche

    Like much of the rest of the rugby world, I’ve been sick and tired of South African cheating, thuggery and off-the-ball violence for decades. Now that they’ve added whining, it’s altogether too much.

    The current refrain from the Springboche supporters, management and even their Union is that “quotas” and “refereeing bias” are to account for their poor performances. Neither of which is the case.

    The problem is that the Springboche select too many Afrikaners.

    Without wishing to stereotype, the typical Afrikaner is ignorant and stupid, clumsy and belligerent, arrogant and violent, with victim paranoia.

    One only need look at one of the Afrikaners’ most revered folk heroes, Piet Van Zyl, to see the Afrikaner everyman:

    As an aside, let’s not forget that the Jaapies were celebrating Van Zyl’s attack on the referee David McHugh when it occurred a full eight years ago. Their victim paranoia-inspired attacks on refereeing integrity are hardly new.

    The modern game of rugby union requires tactics and strategy, aerobic fitness and conditioning, intelligence and skill, creativity and concentration. The Afrikaners as a breed are simply not equipped for any of this.

    For decades, Springboche rugby has been based upon brute force, off-the-ball thuggery, blatant cheating and constant infringements, assisted by artificial advantages like Broederbund referees (honestly, the irony of the Springboche complaining about referee bias after the Broederbund refs!) Afrikaaners firmly believe that they have a God-given right to go out onto the rugby pitch and commit any act of thuggery, sanctioned by the Dutch Reformed Church of “We’re Right and Everyone Else is Wrong.”

    The game has moved on and the Boche simply don’t have the skillsets required to compete. Better yet, modern video technology ensures that at least some of their despicable on-field thuggery is exposed.

    Their solution is simple: stop selecting knuckle-dragging Afrikaner thugs. Select players of other ethnicities that want to play the game.

    • Shaun

      Now what hole did you creep out of. Why do you have such hatred. based on that personal feeling how can we take any of your comments seriously . What a poor effort !

  • I think Springboche is on the money here from a slightly different angle. While I do firmly believe the quota systems in South Africa in both sport and business are running for the incorrect purposes that don’t contribute to their performance efficiency (current times), this is a good observation. Schalk Burger and Bakkies Botha are your perfect candidates for the ‘thuggery’ tag.

    Rugby Reg’s article is outstanding and time to update the card list as well. Haha! On twitter he informed me that it’s 18 yellow cards in 33 tests, including their home fixtures.
    They’ve been exposed, which is playing against them quite heavily now. To hear the moaning and complaints afterwards, it was amusing.
    Awesome work by the Wallabies, and while I’m not an Allblack follower (Wallaby till I die), they did expose the Boks in more ways than one.

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