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August 2, 1956 - Solway Ground - Masterton

South Arica 19 / Wairarapa-Bush 8 

It was another disappointing Springbok performance and although they won by 11 points all the tries came from individual effort rather than from smooth team work as one would expect after 7 weeks and 15 matches on tour (excluding the 3 weeks and 6 matches in Australia).

Major part of the problem was injuries but there was also way too much reliance on the backline to make things happen. The injury problems affected both the forwards and back line with Piet du Toit a prop having to play in the loose trio as No8 and with Rosenberg coming back after long injury into the backline. Viviers was also forced to play with injury when Buckler pulled his thigh muscle so badly in training the day before the match that he was not able to play again on tour. The backs were arguably more disrupted/affected with players having to play out of position and/or on return to soon to match situations after injury especially since the team were relying heavily on them to make magic against a flat lying defence. The overall impression was one of mediocrity. 

This picture shows a line-out in the Wairarapa-Bush game. The Springbok forwards was dissapointing and showed very little structure and cohesiveness in the set piece as well as the tight loose.

The team as a whole but the backline in particular looked without snap writes Maxwell Price in his book ‘Springboks at Bay’. The backline looked disjointed, unorganised, and unable to penetrate. They also exhibited poor decision making on attack and defence in particular against forward rushes directed into the midfield channels 2 and 3. There were just too many fumbles and 50/50 passes for an international side and the newspaper headlines the day after the match was not flattering at all targeting the troubles in the backline.

“Springboks have day off”; “Disappointing rugby seen at Masterton”; “Home team saved game from failure”; “Fumbling of passes keeps down Springboks’ scoring” were some of the main headlines in prominent Newspapers all over the country.

The main theme of most articles was that it was not a good dress rehearsal for the second test just a couple of days’ away.

Teams and individual performances

The local team consisted of 9 Wairarapa and 6 Bush players. None of the players -although experienced first class-players- were particularly well known outside the Wairarapa district. Lett the flyhalf and Captain left the field in the second half after breaking his leg and the No8 Carter moved to the wing. They completed the match with 14 men.

Viviers, who was still far from fit/injury free, had to play in place of Buchler who pulled a thigh muscle during practice. Rosenberg played in his first match after re-injuring himself in Hamilton (first match in New Zealand). Van Vollenhoven was played as his outside centre partner with Briers and Johnstone on the wing. Prop forward Piet du Toit played on No8 due to injury to Lochner, Dawie Ackermann, and Basie van Wyk while Daan Retief was rested for the big 2nd test only 5 days away.

The teams were:

South Africa



Basie Viviers


L Aitkenhead

Theuns Briers


B Hutchings

Tom van Vollenhoven


J Small

Wilf Rosenberg


G Gyde

Paul Johnstone


W Speedy

Clive Ulyate


J Lett

Coenraad Strydom


I Rutherford

Piet du Toit


M Carter

Chris de Wilzem


P Travers

James Starke


J Kerridge

Chris de Nysschen


G Potts

Jan PickardJohana Claassen


R Blake

Jaap Bekker


R Hayward

Melt Hanekom


I Oliver

Chris Koch


J Speedy


C.R. Gilles (Waikato)

Rosenberg had a reasonable game considering it was his first full game in more than a month. He made at least one good break leading to Briers try late in the second half and his defence was solid. Rosenberg was however clearly rusty and had several handling lapses. He ran out of puff midway through the match and moved to the wing with Johnstone going to centre only to return to the centre position later in the match. This shuffling of players didn’t help with rhythm in the backline and the backs went from struggling to a stutter as the match proceeded. It didn’t help when van Vollenhoven went off with a cut above the eye late in the first half either. Van Vollenhoven returned after the break and played the rest of the match.

Coenraad Strydom made some good breaks leading to two tries; his service was fast and his passing long and accurate. Ulyate kicked well but once again the backline were unable to fire with him in the pivotal position. Van Vollenhoven scored a brilliant individualistic try halfway through the first half but generally did not have a good game on centre against tight defence. 

In this picture Coenraad Strydom receive the ball from Jan Pickard. In the background James Starke. Strydom, Starke and Pickard were three of only a few Springboks that played well in this match.

De Wilzem’s tackling let him down and Piet du Toit was clearly not a No8. Pickard showed that he was a far better lock than loose forward while James Strake had a solid game on the flank. Bekker scored two tries but none of the other Springboks stood out and was in fact overshadowed by their opposition.

Terry McLean in his book “Battle for the rugby Crown” has this delightful few paragraphs which summaries the match splendidly:

The trouble was that having scored 13 points in 27 minutes with tries by van Vollenhoven, Bekker and Bekker again, plus two conversions by Viviers, the Springboks began to meddle and fumble and bumble, exhibit a discreetly-concealed dislike for getting too close to the path of the combined team’s loose forward rushes and unfailingly run either too far or not far enough.

Even at an early stage of the game, after only six minutes of play, van Vollenhoven in the centre ruined a perfect breakaway by running into a stout tackle by Aitkenhead when he could have put Briers in for a try; and from a beginning of this kind their resulted some of the strangest follies, including slow passing and too much kicking by Ulyate and what was bound to be, considering his lack of match practice, fumble after fumble by Rosenberg.

So far as Viviers was concerned, you could have played a variation of the old game of “She loves me, she loves me not,” by intoning, with each successive kick, the refrain, “He’ll catch it, he’ll catch it not.” Seldom in the field of football conflict had a Springbok team suffered so much indignity for so little reason.

The match

South Africa ran up a 13-0 lead by halftime but looked patchy. The first points came only halfway through the first half due to brilliant individual effort by Tom van Vollenhoven. Soon thereafter Jaap Bekker scored two tries both after brilliant breaks by Strydom the scrumhalf.

In the second half South Africa were able to score only once and was totally outplayed by the home team who scored two very good tries.

Wairarapa-Bush could not match the Springboks for weight in the forwards or speed in the back but were extremely efficient and competitive in the loose and broken play. South Africa dominated the scrums but line-outs were an even contest.

The home team lacked finishing ability due to not enough speed in the backline but never gave up and played an inspired game. The hero was the fullback Aitkenhead who was outstanding on defence and cool under pressure. His line-kicking and positional play was first class. His only blemish was the fact that he missed with four penalty goals.

The tries

Tom van Vollenhoven scored the first try midway through the first half after South Arica won a lineout near the opponents’ goal line. The ball moved down the backline and van Vollenhoven side-stepped his way through the defence to score near the posts. Viviers converted the try. 

This picture show Tom van Vollenhoven scoring his try against Wairarapa-Bush

The second Springbok try resulted after a brilliant blindside break by Strydom from a scrum on the Wairarapa-Bush 25. The ball went to Bekker who scored. Bekker scored another try soon afterwards after a similar break by Strydom. Ulyate failed to convert the first one while Viviers where successful with the second Bekker conversion to make the half time score 13-0. 

These two pictures show the tries scored by Jaap Bekker in the Wairarapa-Bush match.

In the second half the Springboks were missing in action and the home team opened their account midway through the half with a try by Hutchings. Aitkenhead the fullback came into the line, linked with the centre Speedy who looped the ball with an overhead pass to Hutchings on the wing to score.

Viviers then kicked a penalty before the home team scored their second try. The second try resulted after a good forward rush by the Wairarapa-Bush forwards. South Africa was able to secure the ball towards the end of the Wairarapa-Bush forward rush and a pass was flung to Viviers who fumbled it and the ball rolled over the Springbok goal line. J Small the outside centre fell on the ball to claim a try which was converted by fullback Aitkenhead.

Right on full time Briers scored a dubious try after a brilliant line break by Rosenberg. Briers said himself that the pass he received from du Toit was forward.

This is a picture of Theuns Briers scoring his 'dubious' try against Wairarapa-Bush. 

Jaap Bekker and Theuns Briers scored their first tries on tour against Wairarapa-Bush.

It was a match thoroughly enjoyed by the home crowd but not by the Springboks. “This is a day of my life I would prefer to forget,” said Viviers afterwards while Craven stated: “Thanks heavens this was not a test match. If it had, who knows what the score would have been against us.”