Daniël Hendrik “Daantjie” Rossouw was a 23-year-old student at Stellenbosch University who made a huge impression during the winter of 1953.
He was not selected originally for the third Test of the series against John Solomon’s touring Australians played at Kingsmead, Durban.
Tjol Lategan, then a veteran of 11 Tests, withdrew from the team with a shoulder injury – he was fated not to play for South Africa again – and the outstanding Lategan-Ryk van Schoor centre combination was broken after 10 Tests together since the second Test against the All Blacks in 1949. Nine of the games were won.
Rossouw had been chosen for Western Province for their traditional early-season friendly against Transvaal at Newlands in May, 1953, and had made a good impression. Later, he was nominated for the Springbok trials which coincided with a combined UCT-Stellenbosch tour of the then Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and Rossouw, thinking he had little chance in the trials, opted to go on the tour.
Jan du Preez, Rossouw’s Stellenbosch centre partner had made a big impression on the tour and the national selectors showed plenty of interest in him when WP Universities played the Australians at Newlands three days before the second Test, the students winning 24-5. Du Preez, after a promising start when he scored a try, injured his shoulder and ankle and took no further part in the match after 10 minutes. He had to wait until the tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1956 for a call-up to the national team.
Rossouw, meanwhile, had a brilliant game in the Universities match, cutting through the Wallaby defence time and again, showing excellent acceleration – preferring the outside gap - and he also tackled well. He also had the good fortune to play so well in front of three national selectors – Danie Craven, Geoff Gray and Frank Mellish, and so with Lategan out of the vital Durban Test, Rossouw got the nod.
He was one of six changes from the second Test team that had lost 14-18 at Newlands in the second Test. Out went the two wings, Chum Osche and Buks Marais, Lategan (injured), Ian Kirkpatrick at flyhalf, Chris Koch (prop), Ernst Dinkelmann at lock, and they were replaced by Steve Hoffman and Dolf Bekker on the wings, Rossouw at centre, Natie Rens at flyhalf, Harry Newton Walker at prop and Jan Pickard at lock – all new caps except for Pickard, who had toured the British Isles and France in 1951-52 without playing a Test.
Rossouw and Bekker each scored tries on debut, South Africa won the third Test 18-8 and then clinched the series 22-9 in Port Elizabeth and South Africa had protected their unbeaten status in home Test series during the 20th Century.
- Peter Martin