Much has been made of the youthful inexperience of the current Springboks team, but is it really so?
There have naturally been less experienced team in the past. In the first Test in 1891 there were 0 caps. In the first Test in 1949 there were no capped players and in and about that time there were few caps. When Boy Louw retired he was the most capped Springbok of all time with 18 caps, not even half as many as Tendai Mtawarira.
So we shall look at the post 1992 period when Test matches proliferated as operation overkill swung into action
The starting XV to play the Wallabies in Pretoria has 415 caps - that is 300 more than the fewest caps for a Springbok team in the modern era. The 1999 team under Nick Mallett that played Italy in Durban in 1999 had just 115 caps. The most capped player in that team was centre Japie Mulder on 26 caps at the time. They beat Italy 101-0.
The Springboks starting team against Italy in 1999 (caps in brackets): Percy Montgomery (23), Breyton Paulse (1), Robbie Fleck (1), Japie Mulder (26), Stefan Terblanche (13), Gaffie du Toit (2), David von Hoesslin (1), André Vos (1), Corné Krige (0), Selborne Boome (1), Albert van de Berg (1), Willie Meyer (1), Naka Drotské (14), Robbie Kempson 12)
The present Springboks starting team against the Wallabies: Zane Kirchner (19), Bryan Habana (81), Jaco Taute (0), Jean de Villiers (79), François Hougaard (22), Johan Goosen (2), Ruan Pienaar (58), Duane Vermeulen (2), Willem Alberts (15), François Louw (12), Andries Bekker (27), Eben Etzebeth (6), Jannie du Plessis (37), Adriaan Strauss (16), Tendai Mtawarira (39)
Man for man Montgomery had more caps than Kirchner and Fleck one more than Taute. Otherwise the present team is far more experienced.
But neither team comes close to the moist capped team of all times. The team that lost the World Cup quarterfinal to the Wallabies had 836 caps.
Johan Goosen is the youngest in the current team at 20 years and 63 days while Eben Etzebeth is the youngest forward at 20 years and 21 days. Neither is the all-time youngest. In fact Goosen is younger than Lambie was when he made his debut. Lambie was 20 years and 20 days.
The youngest back was Jack Hartley at 18 years and 18 days though his tombstone in Muizenberg suggests that he was even younger. The youngest forward was Barry Heatlie at 19 years and 126 days. Both of those date back to 1891.
Despite the youth of Goosen and Etzebeth the present Springboks have an average age - a rough one calculated on years only - of 28 years.
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