The McLook rugby collection

A personal collection that tells the story of Springbok rugby

Eden Park - All Black fortress

The All Blacks and Springboks played each other for the first time in 1921. In the second test of that series the two teams met –for what was the first ever test on Eden Park- on what has now become a fortress for New Zealand rugby. The All Blacks have won 20 straight test matches at the ground, with their last non-victory being an 18-18 draw with Francois Pienaar’s Springboks in 1994 (thanks to six Shane Howarth penalty goals). 

 

Picture of Eden Park. 

That same year (16 years ago) was the last time New Zealand lost a test match at Eden Park, losing 23-20 to Philippe Saint-Andre’s famous Les Bleus tourists. 

Check out this try by that 1994 French side at Eden Park.

That French defeat was only the 10th ever loss the All Blacks had suffered at Eden Park.

Overall the All Blacks have won 52 of 64 clashes at their Auckland headquarters since 1921. 

South Africa and New Zealand have played each other 8 times at Eden Park with the All Blacks winning 5 times. Here are some facts and figures from their tests at Eden Park: 

Date

Score

Attendance

27 August 1921

SA win 9-5

40 000

25 September 1937

SA win 17-6

55 000

1 September 1956

NZ win 5-11

61 240

18 September 1965

NZ win 3-20

56 480

12 September 1981

NZ win 22-25

49 000

6 August 1994

Draw 18-18

50 100

9 August 1997

NZ win 35-55

48 000

25 August 2001

NZ win 15-26

45 000

Some more interesting figures and facts from test matches at Eden Park 

The two sides have met in eight tests at Eden Park up to 2001 and then again (not in above table) in 2010. On two occasions, in 1937 and 1994, the All Blacks did not score a try. 

The 1994 test, drawn 18-all, was the first of three consecutive matches between the countries in which the All Blacks were unable to score a try. The others were the World Cup final of 1995 and the opening Tri-Nations match in Christchurch the following year. 

Although the All Blacks have won four, lost two and drawn one of the seven Eden Park tests, they have scored one fewer try - 16 against 17 - than the Springboks. 

Legendary All Black flanker Kel Tremain had a series to savour against the Springboks of 1965. He scored tries in each of the first three tests in Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch. The only game in which he missed crossing the try line was at Eden Park in the 20-3 series-deciding win. 

That victory was redoubtable fullback Fergie McCormick's test debut. It also marked the final test of the captain, Wilson Whinerary, and flanker Red Conway. 

Another All Black captain, Gary Whetton, made his test debut in the flour bomb test at Eden Park in 1981. That match brought an end to the test career of Springbok fullback Gysie Pienaar. 

In 1956, Harry Newton Walker propped the South African scrum in the fourth test at Eden Park. It was to be his last test - but he created history in the series by becoming the first son to follow his father in playing a test for the Springboks. His father, Alfred, a flanker, played in the 1921 series in New Zealand. 

The All Blacks have had five or more tries scored against them in tests just five times - and three of those occasions were at Eden Park. South Africa did it in 1937 (winning 17-6) and 1997 (despite losing 35-55). The Wallabies did it in 1978 (winning 30-16). 

Summary of the first ever test at Eden Park - 27 August 1921  

The first test between the AB and the Springboks on Eden Park was also the first ever test on Eden Park and the second test of the 1921 series. The AB won the first test –of that series- played on 13 August 1921 in Dunedin. “Ginger” Nichols the All black No10 and star player in the first test was a surprising omission for the second test and there were rumours of excessive drinking and late nights in the AB camp in the days before the test. 

The Springboks made some changes as well to the side that played in the first test. The players were not satisfied with the team that was selected by the team selection panel for the first test and suggested that the whole team would like to have a say in choosing the side to play in the second test. The management agreed to the suggestion and each of the 29 players wrote down his team and so the side was selected by popular vote. As a result, six players from the first test lost their places. 

Boy Morkel who captained the Springboks in all three test matches against the 1921 All Blacks. 

It was a sunny day and the ground was firm and the general feeling was that if SA were going to win a test in the 1921 series this had to be the one. The AB started with a hiss and a roar and dominated the early stages of the match and almost scored early in the match. 

Midway through the first half the Springbok forwards established ascendency and this paved the way for the Springboks first and only try by the centre Sendin after a break away by the flanker van Rooyen. Gerhard Morkel the Springbok fullback converted the try. Morkel also kicked an outstanding drop goal late in the second half from close to the touchline and midway between the New Zealand 25 and halfway line. 

Gerhard Morkel’s drop goal

 

Gerhard Morkel who had reached veteran stage by the time of the 1921 tour. Yet he played brilliantly in all three tests.

 

Morkel kicking a conversion in the first test

No Springbok left more of an impression on New Zealand spectators in 1921 than fullback Gerhard Morkel. His powerful tackling, prodigious punting and evasiveness earned him plaudits. 

Ability aside, Morkel’s place in New Zealand-South Africa history was assured by one act of individual brilliance; the drop goal (then worth 4 points) he kicked at Eden Park to take South Africa to a winning 9-5 lead in the second test. In the best traditions of rugby myth and legend, the descriptions of this feat vary wildly. All that can be ascertained is that the goal was kicked near the sideline somewhere between 30 and 50 meters out. We also know that after just a few steps infield the kick flew high and straight. 

Unconfirmed reports on crowd reaction merely add to the colour of the occasion. Apparently some in the crowd were so taken with Morkel’s genius they organised for a bottle of beer to be passed out to him, and he was observed to take a generous swig.

For New Zealand, McLean -one of the prop forwards- crashed over after picking up a ball which spilled loose as a result of a tackle made on one of the All Blacks trying to pass. The try was converted. 

Final score 9-5 in favour of South Africa. 

South Africa drew the series after the third test was a scoreless draw. Upon their return home the Boks were not treated kindly by their media and public. They were labelled too defensive, and no consideration was given to the injury problems they had suffered on tour. In defending them Captain Theo Pienaar said: 

True, we may not have done much that was sensational, but let me stress this point: there is neither time nor place for sensational in New Zealand football. Go out there yourselves and fight a New Zealand team on its own soil. A team filled with consciousness of its own prowess and flushed with great achievements of the past. And if you do not eat humble pie on your return, well - I shall! 

Theo Pienaar who was the touring Captain but who did not play in any of the tests.

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