Frankly, if Springs was bad, this match took the gold cup for agonizing rugby. The All Blacks played excruciating poor rugby against a bunch of terribly ordinary footballers whose only virtue was that they could tackle. Terry McLean in his book “Goodbye to Glory” writes:
If you care for defence as a legitimate part of the game, this was a remarkable demonstration of grit. Sound technique, too. No head and shoulders stuff, here. All Blacks were struck amidships by the equivalent of 15-inch shells.
Country was never smashed. Grobbelaar at flyhalf, the centres Harris and Bezuidenhout and, as necessary, the wings, Greef and Steyn, tackled and tackled and tackled. Now and again when the All Blacks tried some fancy move like a crisscross or something similar, the man motoring with the ball in a move intended to confuse, totally, the best-laid defence, ran into two, if not three, of these Free Staters.
All this concentration on defence did admit of the reasonable criticism that the object all sublime of Country was not to score themselves but simply to stop the All Blacks from scoring. But this was hypercriticism. That they held the All Blacks to five tries by, in order, Knight, Osborne, Seear, Purvis and Fawcett, was, all things considered, an excellent performance.
It was not until the 53rd minute of actual play or, counting much time taken for injuries which all removed two of Country team and Purvis from the field, that the defence was breached. After this, the dam of defence developed a leak or two.
The All Blacks problems started with the forwards feeding Sid Going untidy ball. Going under pressure started throwing erratic passes. Seldom in his career has the little halfback sprayed his service in such dilatory fashion, which spoke wonders of Doug Bruce at flyhalf that he picked up most without so much as checking his stride. However, with poor ball and poor service coming from the forwards and Going, respectively, pretty soon everyone joined in, either passing badly, or like Sid throwing the ball where someone wasn’t.
The mishandling affected the forwards too and Knight put down three passes in about five minutes, Oliver, Seear, Eveleigh and Bush all dropping at least one pass.
OFS countries spend most of the match in their own 22 but were able to hold the All Blacks out for most of the match apart from 18 minutes in the second half –between the 53rd and 71st minutes- when they leaked 22 points via four tries by Osborne, Seear, Purvis and Fawcett with some useful place kicking from Going.
The All Blacks played two locks namely Seear (on No 8) and Lawrie Knight (on No6) in the loose trio and that could have contributed to the lack of normal outstanding structure at the breakdowns and therefore the untidy ball Going and the backline received. Seear had a useful game at No 8, operating with great zest but in rugby structure is the result of combinations working like clockwork. Playing locks in the loose trio together with lack of motivation -for a relatively unimportant match- and the relative unfriendly playing conditions –warm dry dusty weather and hard field- and the committed defence culminated in an uninspiring performance and some very ordinary rugby.
Truth is that this was just another match the All Blacks had to tick off as they were mentally starting to psych themselves up for the second test.
It was a match that provided the Kiwis the opportunity to assess their injury woes especially with regard to Kerry Tanner who haven’t played since the first test. Lambert and Johnstone the other two props were also struggling with injuries placing quite a high demand on Billy Bush who seemed to thrive on the challenge and who was of all the All Blacks probably the keenest to respond on the physical challenge posed by the South Africans.
Tanner having lost almost a stone (14 kilogram) in weight was on the brink of being sent home and this was a make or break game for him with the All Black management being concerned as to whether the lighter Tanner would be able to handle the pressures in the front row. In conditions of extreme dust and heat on a hard playing surface Tanner proved his physical resilience. He was going as well at the end as at the start of the match and coach JJ Stewart could hardly conceal his delight after the match.
The news on Peter Whiting wasn’t quite so encouraging. Apart from his bruised rib cartilage Whiting had gone down with the flu and their just seems no earthly way in which the tall lock could be ready for the second test match.
Whiting, however, showed resilience, resistance against pain, commitment and a desire to play of heroic proportions. In the evening gloom after the match Whiting was seen pounding up and down the touchline –flu or no flu- determined to be ready for the all important second test. Whiting was resolute that if his rib could take the pounding then he will be cardiovascularly fit enough to take his place.
Leslie could have played in Welkom. His cracked jaw had healed to such an extent that he could chew a steak with no discomfort. It was decided to not risk him three days away from the second test.
OFS country XV
4 con, 1 pen
Dummy du Plooy
Jakkie Buitendach (C)+
Dirk van der Merwe
G Grossman (C)
* replaced by Frik Campher after 43 minutes; + replaced by Joe Breytenbach after 50 minutes. * Purvis replaced by Mitchell in the 79th minute
The match official was Schubel O’Reilly (NTVL); match attendance was 13 000.
Bryan Williams on a swerving run with the gold mine hills or heaps in the background. Williams did not score his usual try in this match.
Run of play
Going penalty, 27 m.
Knight try. Going convert.
Swanepoel penalty, 48 m.
Osborne try, Going convert.
Seear try, Going convert.
Fawcett try, Going convert.
Swanepoel missed with three penalties. Going and Williams both missed with two penalties and Seear with a drop goal attempt from the 45 meter mark.
Bill Osborne going round Bryce Harris (on the ground). Osborne scored 1 try and had a 40 meter run to put Purvis over for his try but did not do enough to earn a place in the team for the second test. Joe Morgan was the surprise inclusion in the All Back team for the Bloemfontein test.