In 1896 a magnificent disaster struck the South African team before the start of the second test in Johannesburg. F. Maxwell of Transvaal withdrew through injury and was replaced by T. A. Samuels of Griquas, playing on the wing though he was better known as a fullback. Samuels was to run his way into history.
In 1891 the British team had beaten South Africa in the three tests played on that tour, the scores being 4-0, 3-0 and 4-0 (bear in mind that a try only counted one point in those days). In the first test of the 1896 series the British had again trounced South Africa 8-0 in Port Elizabeth.
South Africa had thus never scored against the British Isles until that memorable day, the 22nd of August, 1896. The British led 5-0 at half-time and it looked like being another whitewash. They increased their lead to 13-0 in the second halfand then Samuels struck.
To a cacophony of cheering Samuels ran in a try-and then another to become the first South African (they weren't known as Springboks then) to score in an international.
Samuels was born in Queenstown in 1873, son of the Rev. John Samuels, who later moved to George (then known as George Town). After finishing his schooling at Diocesan College in Cape Town in 1892 he went farming in the Queenstown district and played for Border in 1894.
In 1896 he moved to Johannesburg. South Africa was an itinerant place in those days.
Like Gerry Brand, Roy Dryburgh, and more recently, Johan Heunis, Samuels proved that there is an affinity between fullback and wing play.
From all accounts a versatile, strong-running player, Samuels also had the distinction of playing in the first South African side to win a test match when we beat the British Isles 5-0 at Newlands on the 5th of September 1896.