It was dreary, negative and mediocre; it was the 12th match of the tour, halfway anyway you look at it, and the presumptions was that this All Black side was “gatvol” (had their guts ful) playing dreary, negative and mediocre rugby against a team with a knack for bringing opposition down to their own dreary, negative and mediocre way of playing.
The destructive, spoiling and robust tactics Eastern Transvaal employed resulted in an error-ridden, fumbling performance by the All Blacks whose main concern was to prevent serious injury –like in 1970 when Meads broke his arm and Alan Sutherland his nose- to key players (read about that match here).
Kirkpatrick –in all likelihood determined to get to them before they get to us- started the match by making a shocking late charge to Deon van Rensburg and conceded a penalty that was converted into points by Willie de Bruin. That sort of set the tone for the match; it was atavistic cave-man stuff for the rest of the match by both teams.
The red devils showed –as is/was their style- a single-minded ferocity in their tackling while playing offside most of the time according to the Kiwi journalist. Deon van Rensburg on flyhalf; Jannie Els on centre; Kleinboet Fourie and Wilhelm Boshoff on the flanks severely embarrassed the All Blacks as they poured with kamikaze obligation into anything wearing a black jersey, whether or not the arms in that jersey were holding the ball or not.
Hans Coetzer tackling Lynn Jaffray. This match was characterized by the ferocious and committed tackling of the “red devils” and the inability of the All Blacks to come up with an alternative game plan against a flat flying defensive line-up of a team more intent on spoiling than playing constructive rugby.
Duncan Robertson played himself out of the test side by reducing his outside backs to cannon fodder; constantly feeding them the ball against a flat lying backline of a team dedicated to a destructive and not a constructive game.
It took the kiwis 38 minutes to inch into the lead via Duncan Robertson -doing what he should have done more often- slashing right through to dive over for a try next to the posts. “I could have slashed through or kicked all day,” confessed Robertson later. “But, hell, we were winning and the other guys like to be in the game, so I fed on.”
Duncan Robertson scoring in the 38th minute
Unfortunately, for him JJ Stewart didn’t see it that way. In his opinion the outside backs were operating in chaotic conditions because Duncan Robertson failed to read the game and to take control. Lambert, Norton and Johnstone were having great games and were heaving the ETVL scrum back at every put-in and New Zealand was clearly in control in the loose. Some chip kicks, “Garry Owens” by Robertson or passing to angled forwards taking the ball up was what was required and Duncan Robertson did himself and the team no good failing to vary his game. The naïve tactics in the face of constant offside tactics and tigerish defence took its toll on the injury ridden kiwi side and transpired in them losing Kent Lambert and Bruce Robertson –both test men- in the 65th and 67th minute of the game.
Some hard words fell during halftime and there was some improvement in terms of better ball control at the tackle area culminating in the All Blacks scoring three more tries by Bruce Robertson –before he left the field- Grant Batty and Lyn Davis in the second half.
Lyn Davis stole his try from right under the nose of Piet Grobler –the home team scrumhalf- as ETVL heeled from a scrum on the try line.
Lyn Davis scoring late in the match
The hapless Grobler had been under all sorts of trouble throughout the match, and to concede a try like that was to rub in the ignominy. As irony will have it an outstanding action photo of Grobler (see below) was taken by photographer John Rubython and send all over the world as a permanent reminder for the little halfback of a day he most probably wants to forget.
Rugby photographer John Rubython took this fine action shot of Eastern Transvaal scrumhalf Piet Grobler.
Herman van Coller scored a try for ETVL when the referee wouldn’t allow a legitimate mark near the posts by Terry Mitchell who was swamped and robbed of the ball.
The most exhilarating feature of a drab day was the cries raised in the highest pitched voice imaginable by a pintsize boy, down in front of the grand stand, of “Come on Laurie Mains” throughout the game. The New Zealand supporters –who had swelled to about 300 at this stage- got a great kick out of this and later adopted it as their battle-chant. Terry McLean writes about this little boy and his support for Laurie Mains:
Every so often, whether Laurie was involved or not, the scream would sound. There were maybe 18 000 spectators at the match and they raised a good deal of hullaboloo from time to time, especially in the first half when Eastern Transvaal had the All Blacks running around like headless hens.
But the small boy beat the lot. “Come on Laurie Mains”….. The screams sounded across the field and up to the press bench, the kiwi inhabitants which afterwards adopted the cry as their battle-chant.
In truth, Laurie Mains did come on. He kicked 10 points from two penalty goals and two conversions of the four tries which were run in by Batty, Lyn Davis, and Bruce and Duncan Robertson and he made some useful insertions into the backline. They helped him to build his aggregate of 132 points from only 11 games, an effort which put him way up there among the stars of fullback-points-scorers who had toured South Africa.
Modest though his play always looked especially with that goalkick which, whatever its length, seemed never to do more than sneak over the bar, Mains effort in becoming the centurion of the tour was almost certainly a good deal better than was appreciated. Except by the small boy: “Come on, Laurie Mains!” It was almost worth the hour-long hike from Pretoria to Springs and back to hear the cry.
In contrast Ian Kirkpatrick the All Black superstar flanker despaired after the match whether he would ever score another try for his country. “I just can’t seem to get across the goalline,” said Kirkie who four times went close to scoring. Kirkpatrick started the tour with 47 tries two short of Jimmy Hunter’s record –since 1908- for the most tries scored by an All Black forward and one fewer than Bryan Williams. After Springs, his seventh match Kirkpatrick still sat on 47 tries while Williams has added 8 tries to his tally.
Kirkie frustration increased 10 fold when John Pace came on in the 76th minute and gave him a “how’s-your-father-clip”. This set old Kirkie on the chase for the rest of the match succeeding Lambert and Billy Bush who were already casting about with vim and vigour after they've lost their cool with the cave-man hacking and spoiling tactics of the rugged Eastern Transvalers.
Alan Sutherland had another good game for the kiwis and made spearing punts while holding his own against Eastern Transvaal’s only Springbok, Mike Jennings.
Mike Jennings Eastern Transvaal's only Springbok on the day. Jennings played for Boland against the 1970 All Blacks (read more about that match here) and was a Springbok tourist during the 1969 EOYT to the UK.
Lawrie Knight on the charge with Alan Sutherland and Ian Kirkpatrick in the background.
Willie de Bruin
1 con, 2 pen
2 con, 2 pen
Piet Viljoen (C)
Herman van Coller
Deon van Rensburg*
George de Beer+
T Norton (C)
* replaced by Andre Strydom after 82 minutes; + replaced by John Pace after 76 minutes. * replaced by Bill Osborne after 65 minutes; + replaced by Billy Bush after 67 minutes.
The match official was Jimmy Smith-Belton from Eastern province; match attendance was 18 000.
Run of play
De Bruin penalty, 27 m.
Mains penalty, 22 m.
Duncan Robertson try, Mains convert.
Mains penalty, 38 m.
Van Coller try, de Bruin convert.
Bruce Robertson try, Mains convert
De Bruin penalty, 29 m.
Bruce Robertson scoring in the 62nd minute
Existing gloom over the stuttery performance at Springs lifted later that night to be replaced by an air of relief in the All Blacks’ camp at the announcement of the Springbok team for the Bloemfontein test. Surprise bordering on disbelief was the first reaction at the news that not a single member of the magnificent Transvaal pack had made the side; then utter stupefication at Peter Whipp’s omission plus the switching of Ian Robertson from fullback to centre in his place.
The outrage and indignation in the wake of this team could be measured in the frenzied letter writing to the various newspapers. Hardly a day went by from the time the team was announced until the Saturday without angry letters. The selections didn’t make sense and one can only wonder what went on in the minds of these selectors (if anything) and who the hell appoints the Springbok selectors. Since these 1976 selectors took over as a quintet in 1972, South African rugby fans have been inflicted with some mindboggling combinations such as was the case in the selections of the team that played John Pullen English team in 1972 and the frantic selections during the 1974 British Lions tour.
The country buzzed with speculation when an Afrikaans daily newspaper published the story that one of the selectors had threatened to resign because of the dropping of Whipp.