Blasts from the past: Frith sets unbroken Comrades record
Today in SA sports history: May 31
1950 — Vic Toweel wins the world bantamweight title as he outpoints veteran Manuel Ortiz at the Wembley stadium in Johannesburg. Ortiz had two reigns as champion, first winning the belt in 1942 and defending it 15 times before losing to Harold Dade. He regained it in a rematch and had five more defences before losing to the relatively inexperienced Toweel, who was unbeaten in 13 bouts at the time. Ortiz’s record stood at 94 wins, 21 losses and three draws. Toweel remains the only South African boxer to have been an undisputed world champion.
1974 — WBA bantamweight titleholder Arnold Taylor, South Africa’s second world boxing champion, suffers a shock points defeat to unheralded American Lorenzo Trujillo in Port Elizabeth, in the final of three non-title bouts ahead of his disastrous defence against Korea’s Soo-Hwan Hong.
1980 — Facing the British and Irish Lions for the first time since the calamitous tour of 1974, the Springboks score five tries to clinch victory in the first Test at Newlands 26-22. Flyhalf Tony Ward kept the visitors in the game with five penalties and a drop goal, failing to convert his team’s only try by prop Graham Price. With the scores locked at 22-22 in injury time, scrumhalf Divan Serfontein, making his debut, scored the winning try. The key to the Bok victory was their composure, with skipper Morne du Plessis refusing to retaliate and channelling emotions into the game after he was punched without provocation by his opposite number, Derek Quinnell, early in the match.
1981 — Bruce Fordyce wins the first of his nine Comrades crowns, winning the up run in 5hr 37min 28sec. He won eight in a row — including the 1985 and 1987 up runs in an identical 5:37:01. He took a year’s break in 1989 to focus on a 100km race in Stellenbosch earlier in the year and then returned in 1990 for his final victory. In all he won six up runs and three down runs (there were consecutive up runs in 1987 and 1988).
1986 — The Springboks wrap up their series against the rebel New Zealand Cavaliers, winning the final fourth Test at Ellis Park 24-10 to take the series 3-1. Scrumhalf Garth Wright, a student in Port Elizabeth, scored SA’s only try in a match where flyhalf Naas Botha kicked five penalties and centre Michael du Plessis landed a drop. That was the last time the Springboks would play for more than three years, the longest hiatus in their calendar since calls for isolation began seriously in the 1960s.
1989 — Frith van der Merwe wins the second of her three Comrades titles, but this one is the most spectacular, her 5hr 54min 43sec effort earning her 15th position overall. Her time still stands as the women’s down run record. Samuel Tshabalala won the men’s race that year to become the first black Comrades champion.
2010 — Katlego Mphela scores two goals, both from penalties, as Bafana smash Guatemala 5-0 in their penultimate World Cup warm-up match at the Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane. Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Suprise Moriri and Bernard Parker also found the net in what was South Africa’s biggest margin of victory. But it would later emerge that this was one of five warm-up matches influenced by an Asian betting ring.
2011 — Competing at the Golden Spike in Ostrava LJ van Zyl equals the 47.66sec SA 400m hurdles record he had set in Pretoria a few months earlier. It was the fifth and final time he would go below 48 seconds in his career.
2014 — Johan Cronje breaks Johan Fourie’s South African mile record from 1987, clocking 3min 50.70sec as he finished ninth at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, more than three seconds off the pace. Fourie had gone 3:50.82 in Port Elizabeth.
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