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27 June 1956 - Poverty Bay

Springboks 22 / Poverty Bay-East Coast Combined 0 

The Springboks travelled by plane -for the first time on tour- from Wellington to Gisborne to play a combined Poverty Bay-East Coach team.

Gisborne was a lovely town (now a city) nestling amid the hills and woods which fringe Poverty Bay, where Captain Cook made his first landing in Aotearoa. 

Brief description of Captain Cooks landing in New Zealand

"The land on the Sea-Coast is high with steep cliffs, and back inland are very high mountains...the face of the Country is of a hilly surface and appeares to be cloathed with wood and Verdure"

Captain Cook's journal, 8th October 1769

James Cook was born in Yorkshire, England, and entered the navy as an able seaman in 1755. By 1768 he had been promoted to first lieutenant, and was given command of the bark Endeavour, a well-constructed ship of 368 tons.

In this same year, Cook received instructions to set sail for the Pacific in order to study the passage of the planet Venus across the disc of the sun. This was predicted to take place on 3rd June 1769, an event which would not take place again for another 105 years. The second set of instructions concerning this voyage was secret. After the observation of Venus, Cook was to search for the mysterious and elusive "southern continent" - Terra Australis incognita

On 26th August 1768, the Endeavour set sail from Plymouth, stocked with 18 months supplies, and with 94 men aboard. Accompanying Cook were Joseph Banks, the botanist, Daniel Solander, a naturalist, and Charles Green, from the Greenwich Observatory.

On 13th April 1769 the Endeavour laid anchor in Tahiti, where the passage of Venus was duly observed, in perfect conditions. Friendly relations were established with the Tahitians. A Tahitian chief named Tupaia, who spoke some English and who wanted to travel, joined the Endeavour with his boy servant when the ship left Tahiti for New Zealand, and the search for the southern continent. Tupaia was an invaluable companion, advising Cook and Banks of the practices and customs of native inhabitants of other islands on route, as the Endeavour continued its southerly course.

On 6th October 1769, Nicholas Young, the surgeon's boy, sighted the coastline of New Zealand from the masthead of The Endeavour.

On 8th October the Endeavour sailed into a bay, and laid anchor at the entrance of a small river in Tuuranga-nui (today's Poverty Bay, near modern Gisborne). Cook named a peninsula in this bay "Young Nick's Head" after Nicholas Young.

Noticing smoke along the coast, an indication that the country was inhabited, Cook and a group of sailors headed for shore in two small boats, hoping to establish friendly relations with the natives, and to take on refreshments. Four sailors were left to guard one of the boats, but were surprised by the sudden appearance of four Maori brandishing weapons. When one Maori lifted a lance to hurl at the boat, he was shot by the coxswain.

Cook's party returned to the Endeavour, and the next day came ashore once again, accompanied by Tupaia. Some Maori were gathered on the river shore, and communication was made possible as Tupaia's language was similar to that of the Maori. Gifts were presented, but the killing of the day before had left the Maori hostile. When one Maori seized a small cutlass from one of the Europeans, he was shot.

That afternoon Cook and would have attempted a further landing, but heavy surf made this impossible. On noticing the appearance of two canoes Cook planned to intercept them by surprise, with the idea of taking the occupants prisoner, offering them gifts, gaining their trust and then setting them free.

However, the canoe occupants noticed the arrival of one of the Endeavour's small boats, and attacked as it approached. The Europeans, firing in self-defence, killed or wounded three or four Maori. Three other Maori who had jumped overboard were picked up by the Europeans, and taken on board the Endeavour. They were offered gifts, food and drink, and soon overcame their fear. Communication was possible via Tupaia, and the next day the three Maori were taken back to shore, where their armed kinsmen were waiting. There was no violence on this occasion.

Cook however, upset by the killings which had already taken place, decided to leave this area. He gave it the name Poverty Bay, as he had been unable to take on refreshments.

Picture of the James cook landing spot near to Gisborne.

This picture shows the Gisborne coastline.

Gisborne is regarded as the place with most sunshine in New Zealand; with its beautiful setting and ‘perfect weather’ the Springboks all wondered what on earth induced Captain Cook to name the site of the town Poverty Bay (see text in the box above how he came to that name).

The usual lavish New Zealand hospitality culminated in a huge buffet for the players which had some players going for second and third helpings causing a bit of a stir about the Springboks eating habits and food being the new enemy of the team. This started blather about the Springboks eating habits which eventually culminated in Craven pulling the team together -after a very uninspiring performance in the next tour match against Hawkes Bay- and set some eating rules. It was this meeting (in Hawkes Bay) that turned out to be just that one more gravitational factor that tipped the balance beam in the wrong direction and which saw the tour perpetuating into a sour and dour experience for the players and team management.

Warwick Roger (Old Heroes) writes: After an uninspired win over Hawke’s Bay, Craven called his men together for a long team talk. He told some of his players that in his opinion they shouldn’t have been on the tour in the first place, and he criticised them for not training hard enough and for over-eating. He may have had a point.

The Herald’s T.P. McLean can remember Wilf Rosenberg in Whangarei, after eating three main courses, polishing off six different desserts on two heaped plates ‘without a suggestion of distress’. Craven sternly announced that from that point on sandwiches were banned at afternoon tea-time; only a cup of tea was permitted.

The Players were equally unhappy. Not all were confident in Viviers’ leadership particularly some of the forwards who would have preferred Salty du Rand to have been captain. Many felt the fullback simply wasn’t a good enough player; and now he was injured.

They complained too about their coach’s harsh training methods which they felt were responsible for their injuries. Craven in turn blamed the soft grounds, their boots, ‘too much sitting around’, and ‘mental tension reflecting itself in muscle tension’.  

Drawing of Basie Viviers who was not very popular as captain and injured for most part of the tour.

The Springboks were still struggling with a number of injuries going into the game but were glad to have Ian Kirkpatrick being able to play his first match on the New Zealand leg of the tour in spite of having him playing on the wing. Brain Pfaff the incumbent test flyhalf had to serve on centre while Paul Johnstone selected for the tour as a wing started at fullback due to the fact that both tour fullbacks Buchler and Viviers were still injured and unable to play.

The Springbok team for this match was: Paul Johnstone; Ian Kirkpatrick; Brain Pfaff; Jeremy Nel; Tom van Vollenhoven; Clive Ulyate; Tommy Gentles; Harry Newton-Walker; Bertus van der Merwe; Piet du Toit; Dawie Ackermann; Jan Pickard; Salty du Rand (Captain); Chris de Wilzem and Butch Lochner.

The Poverty Bay-East Coast team was no pushover. It had beaten Hawkes Bay 20-6 the week before and was captained by incumbent All Black lock ‘Tiny’ White. The other lock Hapi Potae and ‘Bobbie’ Henare the No8 was Maori representative players. The right wing ‘Mick’ Cossey was also a class player who would play for New Zealand in 1958 against Australia. The fullback Knox Karaka became and All Black trialist in 1957.

The Poverty Bay match was a match of two halves and although the Springboks won comfortably in the end -scoring 6 tries- they led only 3-0 at half time thanks to a clever worked try scored by Dawie Ackermann in the 37th minute.

Picture showing Dawie Ackermann scoring one of his two tries against Poverty Bay combined. Ackermann scored the Springboks only try in the first half after a double scissors movement between Lochner and Ulyate and then Ulyate and Nel which threw the home teams backs into confusion and created the opening for Ackermann to slip through dot down behind the posts.

Mclean writes: It was so warm and glorious an afternoon, at what I would be inclined to call the most picturesque Rugby ground I have seen, that it was possible to get sunburn. However, the sun had nothing to do with the red faces of the Springboks at half-time. The cause was mortification, not unmixed with shame.

The Springboks poor performance in the first half was apparently the result of 3 major reasons which the boks were partially able to overcome in the second half. These three elements were:

The halfbacks (Gentles and Ulyate) struggling under pressure due mostly to some technical issues at the line-out. Terry McLean writes as follows about Clive Ulyate who played flyhalf for the boks in this match: Henare, a burly 15-stone Maori of no great pace but any amount of devil playing at No8 fixed so badly an eye upon Ulyate that the latter scuttled about like a startled war-horse for the whole of the first half.

Maxwell Price in his book ‘Springboks at Bay’ writes: The first half of this game was stogy, and the Springboks lacked sparkle. There was a weakness at half-back, where Gentles, was troubled by the attentions of Potae. Ulyate, too, was not playing with his usual confidence, and he was severely harassed by the local number eight, B. Henare.

Price continuous his storyline and pen the following regarding the Springboks structures at the lineout and Tommy Gentles tussle at scrumhalf in this match:

Potae, a huge man with a genial grin, often came through the line-out to baulk scrum-half Tommy Gentles. Afterwards Potae said to me: “Every time the Springboks jumped for the ball I found an opening at number five, so I walked through.” The trouble was the Springbok prop, young Piet du Toit, did not move forwards as Pickard at five went up to leap or wedge. 

  • The incumbent All Black lock ‘Tiny White’ who was also the captain of the combined side totally dominated the line-out in the first half.
  • Injuries going into the match resulted in players being played out of position in the backline and this was further complicated when both Pfaff and Kirkpatrick got injured during the match. Kirkpatrick had to leave the field for an extended period to get stitches. He then came back and moved to his favoured position of center because Pfaff injured his hamstring and was moved to fullback with Johnstone slotting in on the wing.
    The Springboks ran away with the match in the second half scoring 5 tries (Nel, Van Vollenhoven, Ackermann, Van Vollenhoven and Lochner) due to some adjustments made in the second half:
  • They sorted Tiny White. White received a hard blow on his nose bursting a blood vessel and that saw him starting to fade thereafter. It’s not clear whether the blow on the nose was deliberate but McLean suggest something of that nature with his wording that the South Africans ‘most accurately tabbed him’ to eliminate him as a nuisance/threat. The sorting couldn’t have been too serious because White afterwards commented on the clean spirit in which the game was contested and paid tribute to the manner in which Newton-Walker -during the heat of the battle- had helped the loose-forward who were forced by injury to one of the Poverty Bay props to pack against him in the scrum.  

In the drawing above can be seen Harry Newton-Walker with his father Alf. They hold the record of being the first father and son who played for the Springboks. Alf played for South Africa in 1921 and 1924 and Harry in 1953 and 1965. It was Harry in the drawing above who were praised by All Black lock ‘Tiny’ White for helping his opponent with the technical issues of scrummaging midway through the match.

The Springbok backline started to get some flow when Kirkpatrick came back on the field after receiving stitches for an open head wound. This flow in the backline was also a result from four more corresponding factors namely injuries to the Poverty Bay team, the Springbok scrum starting to dominate and Du Randt and Pickard taking control in the line-outs and the Springboks reverting to a 1952 style of playing.

Concerning the injuries to the Poverty Bay team they had their forwards Blair (No7) and Dews (No3) off the field at different times and the fullback Karaka was also playing for a large part of the second half with an injury. This resulted in the Poverty-Bay team losing an alarming amount of form and their unique defensive system was put under pressure and found wanting.

The highly successful Springbok team of 1952 was renowned for its open style of playing which had the forwards and backline linking with each other with devastating impact on the opposition. Mclean has the following on the type of play the Springboks adopted in the second half: To compensate for its ingloriousness, and in defiance of injuries which had Kirkpatrick off the field for a time and Pfaff to fullback, South Africa then began to play the kind of Rugby it had exhibited against New South Wales in the second match of the tour.

Forwards linked with backs, passes were crissed and crossed, astonishing speed was generated and a highly peculiar staggered defensive system adopted by the Preston brothers at five-eighths and Watson at centre was exploited for all the holes it contained.

In the scrum and line-out the Springboks stated to control proceedings and Bertus van der Merwe on hooker took 9 tight heads while du Rand and Pickard gave the backline a plentiful supply of ball from the line-outs. 

It was a concern for the Springboks that they messed-up multiple try scoring opportunities. The legendary All Black fullback George Nepia who attended the match remarked afterwards that the Springbok backline -in spite of scoring 5 tries in the second half- was not totally convincing with their passing and decision making. Maxwell Price estimated that conservatively speaking the Springboks missed out on at least 20 more points due to squandered changes.

Another concern was the ease at which opposition came through the Springbok line-out and pressurised the halfbacks which looked very tentative under pressure.

Craven confronted the team before the match with a rucking bag –a sack filled with shavings and saw dust- in an attempted to sort the deficiencies the Springbok forwards had shown so far on tour at the ruck. The practice worked wonders and a considerable improvement was evident in this match in Gisborne. It was however weak opposition and the truth was that the Springbok pack only really came into the match after the Poverty Bay team started to lose some form due to injury to key players.

A number of Springboks impressed in this match. Johnstone was hard to stop whether playing on the wing or on fullback. The others that impressed were Ackermann, Lochner, Du Rand, and De Wilzem.

The above three pictures shows first Ackermann and second and third Lochner who were outstanding in the loose and who both showed some real speed in scoring tries. Lochner scored a 65 meter try during which he showed a clean pair of heels to the opposition as did Ackermann in his second try. Ackermann in scoring both his tries showed an impressive ability to read play and to ran himself into position.  

Du Rand and de Wilzem impressed with their work rate. The first picture here is a drawing of Salty du Rand while the second picture shows De Wilzem in action in the Gisborne match. 

Van Vollenhoven was dangerous with ball in hand but again proved very suspect on defence. This picture shows Van Vollenhoven scoring one of his two tries.

Jeremy Nel scored the first try in the second half with a fine individual effort. He made a clean break before evading Watson the one centre and then sold a dummy to Karaka the fullback to score close to the uprights. Nel’s decision making let him down on occasion and it was felt that he should have played the ball more to the wings.