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18 July 1956; Fraser Park; Timaru

Springboks 20 / South-Canterbury;North-Otago;Mid-Canterbury Combined 8 

Craven took a week off –resting at Mount Cook- and under instruction of assistant manager Dan de Villiers the Springbok intentions was to run the ball against a team not likely to front any stiff opposition.

A number of factors combined to derail the effort especially in the last quarter of the second half when the match turned into an extremely scrappy affair. These factors being injuries –before and during the match- poor refereeing, and a general sort of holiday or lack of real application attitude amongst the second stringers.

The team was essentially made up of the second stringers who spend the 6 days before the test in Queens Town for a bit of skiing and relaxation. Only Dryburg, Johnstone and Lochner had appeared in the test team the previous weekend. A number of players like Buckler, Briers, James Starke, Melt Hanekom played in their first match on tour. Brain Pfaff who was struggling with injuries was also in the team on flyhalf. Basie Viviers was supposed to start but re-injured himself the day before the match during practice.   

This picture shows Theuns Bries beating his man. Briers and Starke played in the first matches on tour after arriving in New Zealand as replacements just before the Otago game.

The team were: Johnny Buckler; Theuns Briers; Ian Kirkpartick; Roy Dryburg; Paul Johnstone; Brain Pfaff; Tommy Gentles; Chris Koch; Melt Hanekom; Piet du Toit; Chris de Wilzem; Jan Pickard; Chris de Nysschen; James Starke; Butch Lochner.  

Holiday pictures; These are images of the Springbok second stringers on ‘holiday’ (note the inscription under one picture state they were on holiday) in Queens Town in the week before the first test.  

Piet du Toit, Pat Montini, Harry Newton-Walker and James Starke having some fun in the ice.

There was some howls of rage with the announcement of the Combined team and it was no secret that the three unions did not see eye to eye. The team lacked real stars; Eric Sawers (No13), the captain was an All Black trialist, and Tom Coughland (No7) eventually played one test for the All Blacks in 1958 against Australia. The two centres Cole and Watson were prolific try scorers for South Canterbury but the rest of the team consisted of players not well known outside the region(s).

It was expected that the Springboks will have no problems against this relatively weak opposition and they started off bent on playing a fast game. They won the line-outs effortlessly and the timing in the scrums was so good that they often pushed the home pack off the ball after it had been hooked by them.  

This picture shows Jan Pickard winning the ball in the line-out. Pickard and de Nysschen had a good day in the line-outs against mediocre opposition.

The Spingboks gave the ball air and had little trouble running around and through the defence in the early stages of the match with Ian Kirkpatrick, in particular, impressive with his ability to get outside his man and straightening up. 

Tries were scored by Kirkpatrick, Koch, Pfaff and Hanekom before the interval but all was not well in the backline.

The service –partially because of offside play by the opposition- from the base of the scrum/line-out was delayed and the passing in the backline poor. McLean writes:

The Springboks did well enough in the first half and Kirkpatrick at centre had promising acceleration in his running; but the passing was so abdominally high that every move into the threequarters kept being checked by a valuable fraction as the receiver adjusted his stride to cope with the difficult delivery.

The good work up front of Koch, de Wilzem and Lochner was thus affected; and it must also have been discouraging to them that Gentles had to set himself both to gather the ball and get it away. 

This picture shows Tommy Gentles receiving the ball from his forwards and as can be seen in the Afrikaans inscription there was a lot of unhappiness in the Springbok camp about offside play after the match. The two players on the left of James Starke are according to the inscription under the picture clearly off-side. This was apparently not an isolated incident but a general feature of the match.

The Springbok camp felt that the referee allowed far too much off-side by the home team and that the play of the Springbok halves suffered as a consequence. There was an increasing amount of discontent in the Springbok camp about the quality of refereeing and the play of the New Zealand teams at the breakdown. The home team’s only try -late in the second half- for instance resulted when Coughlan (No7) pulled the ball from a loose scrum with his hands in full view of the crowd.

Maxwell Price in his book ‘Springboks at bay!’ writes as follows about the Springbok perspectives on refereeing after this match:

There was now mounting restiveness in the Springbok camp over the quality of the referees provided for these games. The New Zealand officials themselves were apologetic. At the one extreme, games were being broken up through a too literal interpretation of the rules; at the other, rucks were being allowed to go on far too long.

The New Zealand habit of falling over one’s opponent so as to form a barrier on the enemy side of the ball is an outright contravention of the rules. The 1949 All Blacks had been penalised for this, and they did not take too kindly to the South African referees. Now the boot is one the other foot.

The South African forwards staged many fine passing rushes but it all turned to custard the moment the ball went to ground. Then the Combined forwards took charge and several times during the match burst right through the Springbok forwards with marauding foot rushes.

This ‘inability’ on the ground, referee issues as well as injuries -which started early in the second half- wrecked the Springboks hopes of continuing to play fast attractive and expansive rugby. Pfaff injured his ankle; he later returned but was a passenger for the rest of the match. Johnstone received a poke in the eye and there was real concern for a repeat of the Basil Kanyon retina tear which ended his (Kanyon’s) career in 1952. Finally there was Dryburg who left the field with a hamstring tear.

The Springboks finished the game with only 12 players (only 6 in the pack) on the field and this allowed the combined team to get back in the match. One particular rush by the home side started by Gallagher (No6) from his own goal-line was one of the great events of the tour and the home team ended the match not humiliated and evidencing a good deal of pride.

The last quarter of the match was, however, very poor. McLean writes:

The last quarter-hour was pure burlesque. Pickard made as if to leap as high as an elephant’s eye and a scarlet arm so lovingly enfolded him that the noble jump turned into a tiny, wee frustrated hop.

Kirkpatrick had only to give Briers the ball for a try and the pass went sailing clean over Brier’s head. Pickard emerged from conflict with the ball and a calculating look for a long touch and the kick slithered from his foot yards towards the Springbok goal.

Gallagher set up a marvellous rush from behind his own goal-line and in the Springbok 25 some six Combined players began making dabs at the ball to compete for the try that could possibly not be missed. But with every dab this way, the ball went that way and there was no try.

Brief match summary

Combined penned the Springboks down in their own half in the opening stages. The Springboks were winning the ball almost at will, but several penalties were awarded against them for scrum and line-out infringements.

Combined used high, deep kicks towards the Springboks twenty-five and with their forwards following-up were able to exert a great amount of pressure on the South Africans.

Dryburg scored after 6 minutes when from a ruck on the hallway line the ball went through the hands to Johnstone on the wing. He beat his man, drew the fullback before sending Dryburg in for the try. Pickard was penalized five minutes later and Watson (No12) converted the penalty into points for the home side.

Koch scored almost from the kick-off with the forwards and backs combining in a grand passing movement. It was all South Africa for the next 15 minutes and only mishandling and desperate defence kept them out. The persistent attack, however, culminated in a try for Pfaff in the 17th minute of the first half. The try was started by de Wilzem when he gathered a loose pass thrown by the combined team's backs and started running with it mid-way between the home team’s 25 and halfway lines. In the 24th minute Melt Hanekom scored his first try on the New Zealand part of the tour (it was his 3rd in four matches on tour since he played three matches in Australia before he got injured). The try started inside the Springboks half of the field with Lochner, Koch and de Wilzem combining in a fine forward passing rush.

Just before half time Johnstone kicked a penalty to make the score 17-3 at the break.

The last Springbok try was scored by Dryburg after a brilliant cut through break by Ian Kirkpatrick. Dryburg injured his hamstring in the run to the post and walked the last 5 yards to the goal line. He left the field after this walking fairly normal.

The Springboks was leading 17-3 with 10 minutes to go when they started a passing rush from their own line. The ball was dropped and Senior (No1) picked it up but was stopped a yard from the line. A loose scrum formed from which Coughlan dived over for a try. 

Melt Hankom who played in his first match on tour –due to injury obtained in Australia- is shown scoring here. Hanekom generally had a good game.

The match ended with the Springboks once again unable to complete the match with a full team. There were now 11 players unavailable to play, and understandably, the Springboks were despondent. The next match was against star of the provincial teams Canterbury (Crusaders) who fielded a team full of past, incumbant and future All Blacks.