A Brief Recollection of the 1969 Australian Schoolboys Rugby Tour to South Africa. (Part 2)

By Greg Cornelsen


The trials for the South African tour were hosted at Shore School’s Northbridge Oval in Sydney in early July 1969. My only recollection of the trials was Russell Fairfax’s brilliance. Brian Haywood and I were selected from The Armidale School. I asked our school coach why Albert Age, a PNG boy, wasn’t considered, which was my introduction to SA’s apartheid.

Very fortunately for me and several of the boys, the touring party was to be a U17 Australian Schoolboys side. An U18 side would have been much stronger of course. I was selected as a lock having only ever played as a #8, another lucky break. I only told that to coach Bill Toft when we were on the flight to Johannesburg!

The first training session was held in altitude, Pretoria. Manager Brother Gerald Burns took the fitness runs and absolutely killed us. As far as Brother Gerald and Coach Bill Toft were concerned, the style of rugby we were to play required a high level of fitness.

Most Australian schoolboy sides played a fast, expansive style of rugby. South African weather conditions were similar to ours, and all games were played on firm grounds, much to our advantage.

We were billeted throughout the tour, usually in pairs, which I thoroughly enjoyed, learning much of South Africa and the SA way of life. That was certainly an eye opener. Our billets, as a whole, spoilt us and introduced us to as much of SA as they could.

From Cape Town, for example, we were bused into the Karoo which was very hot and dry for the famous SA BBQ (Braii). So many varieties of meats and sausages were presented. A special event none of us will forget.

We played 7 matches in all, winning 5, a draw and 1 loss, scoring 135 points for, with 39 against.

Our back line was full of explosive talent. Centre Malcolm Jack and Russell Fairfax were the standouts. 5/8 Jim Hindmarsh, centre David Giles and winger Tim Rowlands weren’t far behind. It was a matter of the forwards winning enough ball for our backs to run riot.

Our first win against Pretoria Schools created much interest, so much so that our second game in Cape Town attracted 20,000 spectators. That 10-3 victory came at a cost to the team, losing our captain Peter Robinson with a broken collarbone.

Malcolm Jack was the team’s prolific points scorer. He was big, fast, and strong, scoring many outstanding tries. He was also an accurate goal kicker. 

The greatest schoolboy rugby player I have seen. That is my verdict after watching Malcolm Jack score twenty-three points for a touring Australian side in their 26-0 first half against Transvaal Schools at Ellis Park” wrote T. J. Botha, a leading SA rugby writer.

As a spectator for the Kimberly Griqua Schools match, I witnessed one try I have never forgotten. Russell Fairfax called for a catch a long distance away from where the ball would bounce. He was running at full pace, collected the ball on the half volley then beat all the defence to score under the post. Possibly the best try I have ever seen, and against a good team. The Griqua boys were very tough up front and defended very well to run out deserved winners 19-10.

SA President John Vorster welcomed us at an official function on our arrival. In fact, President Vorster and his family billeted our prop Lou Slaughter and maybe another of our touring party.

We visited some amazing places, including Kimberley’s open-cut diamond mine, Big Hole, a major tourist attraction. The man-made hole is 463m wide and 240m. The hole is considered the largest man-made hole in the world.

A mile underground in a Johannesburg gold mine is a vivid memory. Oily damp heat dampened any thoughts of a mining life.

We also visited many famous Boer War battlefields and monuments throughout our tour.

The 1969 Schoolboys tour of South Africa was considered a huge success. Players from the tour received quite a bit of kudos, which certainly helped me gain selection in some representative sides after I left school.

The kudos from the tour helped me immeasurably, especially my rugby career. My first year out of school, I was selected for the New England rugby team for Country Week, which we won. From that carnival, I gained selection into Country 2nd’s, ultimately playing 1 game that year for Country 1sts. The tour certainly helped with those selections.

Being selected for the Australian Schoolboys puts you in the box seat in front of selectors. Playing senior representative rugby has helped me in so many ways throughout my life, and I am eternally grateful to The Australian Schoolboys for the role it played.

Greg Cornelsen and fellow Armidale student Brian Haywood, 1969
Australian Schoolboys Tour Of South Africa 1969
Sun, 17 AugLanded in Johannesburg  
Wed, 20 AugNorthern Transvaal Schools Loftus Versfeld Oval, Pretoria Won 11- 8
Sat, 23 AugWestern Province SchoolsNewlands, CapetownWon 10 – 3
Thu, 28 AugEastern Province SchoolsBoot Erasmus Stadium, Port Elizabeth Won 29 – 5
Sun, 31 AugBorder East SchoolboysBasil Kenyon Stadium, East London Won 27 – 3
Tue, 2 SepOrange Free State SchoolboysFree State Stadium, Bloemfontein Drew 11 – 11
Fri, 5 SepGriqua SchoolboysDe Beers Stadium, Kimberley Lost 10 – 19
Sun, 7 SepTransvaal SchoolsEllis Park, Johannesburg Won 37 – 0
Mon, 8 SepTeam departs



Peter RobinsonCaptain – Epping Boys’ High
Richard AllenTrinity Grammar School
Robert ArmstrongEpping Boys’ High
John BabisterSydney Grammar School
Peter BullNewington College
Timothy ClemensonNewington College
Greg CornelsenThe Armidale School
Alan CouttsEpping Boys’ High
Russell FairfaxMatraville High
Steven FinnaneVaucluse Boys’ High
Peter FlemingMarist College, Ashgrove
Robert FosbergEpping Boys’ High
David GilesHurlstone Agricultural High
Brian HaywardThe Armidale School
Jim HindmarshScots College
Charlie HorderShore School
Malcolm JackBalgowlah Boys ‘ High
Graham McPhailBrisbane State High School
Sean MooneyEpping Boys’ High
Alistair RobinsonHurlstone Agricultural High
Timothy RowlandsScots College
Lou SlaughterScots College
Andrew StathopoulosCranbrook School
 Ronald TaylorBarker College
Timothy WardleSt. Ignatius College, Riverview
Manager: Br. Gerry BurnMarist Brothers College, Cairns
Assistant Manager: CoachMr Bill Toft

Greg Cornelsen, Wallaby # 574

Cornelsen in the match against the All Blacks at Eden Park on 9 September 1978. He famously scored four tries, helping the Wallabies to a 30-16 victory. Photo Rugby Australia


2024 ASRU Championships

The ASRU would like to formally invite State and Territory affiliates to participate in the 50th Australian Schools Rugby Championships. … Continued