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Ask John
John Smit's captaincy record, the most experienced Test side ever and England's oldest clubs
John Griffiths
August 17, 2009

Welcome to the latest edition of Ask John where renowned rugby historian John Griffiths will answer any rugby-related query you have!

So, if there's something you've always wanted to know about the game we love but didn't know who to ask, or you think you can stump our expert - then get involved by sending us a question.

In this edition, John offers an insight into John Smit's records as Springboks captain, England's oldest rugby clubs and the most experienced Test sides ever.

Q. Could you give me a list of the matches John Smit has been captain of South Africa? Daniel Hall, England

A. John Smit has captained South Africa 61 times since 2003 up to last weekend's Tri-Nations win against Australia. His record as captain is 44 wins, one draw and 16 defeats.

Click here here for a complete breakdown of his record as Springboks captain courtesy of Statsguru.

Q. Please could you tell me which international team has had the most international caps in its starting 15? Rich, South Africa

A. Two of the sides at the 2007 Rugby World Cup took the field with nearly 800 caps in the starting line-up (ie caps won before the match).

Australia had 798 caps in the side that ran on in their pool match against Japan: Chris Latham 73; Adam Ashley-Cooper 8, Stirling Mortlock 60, Matt Giteau 47, Lote Tuqiri 53; Stephen Larkham 101, George Gregan 134; Matt Dunning 32, Stephen Moore 15, Al Baxter 47, Nathan Sharpe 60, Dan Vickerman 48, Rocky Elsom 28, George Smith 79 and Wycliffe Palu 13.

Ireland had 795 caps in the fifteen that took the field for their pool match against Georgia: Girvan Dempsey 76; Shane Horgan 55, Brian O'Driscoll 76, Gordon D'Arcy 33, Denis Hickie 60; Ronan O'Gara 74, Peter Stringer 78; Marcus Horan 48, Rory Best 15, John Hayes 76, Donnacha O'Callaghan 37, Paul O'Connell 46, Simon Easterby 59, David Wallace 38 and Denis Leamy 24.

Q. If Inga the winger scored the first five-point try in an international, who scored the first ever five point try in rugby history? Where and against whom? Ronald Jones New Zealand

A. The first five-point try scored in a first-class rugby match was by full-back Anetelea Aiolupo for Western Samoa in the opening match of their short tour of New Zealand in 1992. He crossed playing against Waikato at Hamilton on 1st June 2002.

Q. What are the oldest rugby clubs still operating in England? Louis Mildmay, United Kingdom

A. As far as continuous affiliation to the Rugby Football Union is concerned, eight clubs of the 21 who were present at the foundation of the Union at the Pall Mall Restaurant in London on 26th January 1871 are still operating: Blackheath, Richmond, Civil Service, Wellington College, Guy's Hospital, Harlequins, King's College and St Paul's School.

Wasps were in existence at the time and were invited to that inaugural meeting, but according to legend went to the wrong hostelry, found the fare to their liking and felt disinclined to continue their search for the meeting.

As far as date of foundation, Rugby School where the game originated would clearly lay claim to be the oldest club still playing the game. After that, Guy's Hospital claim to have been founded in 1843, though it is known that a club formed by Cambridge University students was playing at Parker's Piece before that.

In the north of England both the Manchester (founded 1860) and Liverpool (1857) clubs were in existence at the time of the formation of the RFU and are still thriving. They did not, however, become affiliated to the Union until 1873 when they were among the first clubs from the north of England to do so.

Q. In the comparison of tallest scrum halves you have omitted Terry Holmes - from memory he was about 6'2" John Patrick Donovan, South Africa

With regard to tall scrum halves, I am a little surprised that Dewi Morris doesn't feature because I though he was over 6' 1" and therefore more or less the same height as Van der Westhuizen. I recall that both Matt Dawson and Kyran Bracken were about 6ft. Also what about Terry Holmes? He was over 6ft wasn't he? John Wylde England

A. Wales's Terry Holmes was 6'1". Dewi Morris was 6' 0", the first six-footer selected to play scrum-half for England, while both Matt Dawson and Kyran Bracken measured 5' 11". All, however, were shorter than Stan Coughtrie of Scotland (6'1½") who had set the record back in 1959 and, from 1993 until the advent of Mike Phillips, shared it with Joost van der Westhuizen.

Q. Why wasn't there a Plate competition at the Middlesex Sevens in 2006 and 2007? Anon

A. The Plate competition for the first-round losers in the Middlesex Sevens Finals was introduced in 1992. In 2006, the organisers tweaked the format, placing the 12 Guinness Premiership clubs into four pools of three teams with each team guaranteed at least two matches. The four top teams then progressed to the semi-final stage.

The format continued in 2007 before expanding back to the 16-team format and reverting to a knock-out competition in 2008. At that stage the Plate competition for first-round losers resumed.

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