Uncle Piet and hypocritical Thys had the All Blacks pretty worked up after the Northern Transvaal game. There were several incidents during and after the game but the cherry on the cake, for the All Blacks, was the way referee Piet Robbertse and NTVL captain Thys Lourens conspired to cheat them out of a victory in extra time.
In the 41st minute the All Blacks scored a try which looked like the winning one after trailing on the scoreboard for the whole match. Robbertse, however, allowed an extra three line-outs, and running up to the last lineout he conspired with Thys to force the match winning penalty for NTVL by reacting on a remark made by Lourens in Afrikaans: "I am dropping out of the line-out Oom Piet. We are playing a short line-out. Watch them.” Uncle Piet apparently anxious that the All Blacks will notice what was going on penalized the All Blacks even before the lineout had properly formed and then marched another 10 steps closer to the All Black goal line before marking the penalty spot.Quintes van Rooyen in his boek 'Rugby in kettings' (tranlated Rugby in chains) wrote that Thys never talked to the referee but that he did shout loudly and clearly (so that the referee could hear) to his players that they should play a short line-out.
There were a number of issues with this line-out. Thys Lourens explained afterwards that NTVL had tried this particular ploy earlier in the game but that it escaped the attention of Robbertse. Lourens therefore went ahead and made sure that the “trick” did not again escape the referee’s notice.
From the All Blacks perspective Robbertse prejudged the line-out. He ignored a couple facts namely that the throw-in by John Trollope wasn’t straight; that it was a quick line-out and that at least one retreating NTVL player wasn’t yet beyond the 10-meter mark and lastly that All Black number 6 Ken Stewart -who was penalised for being the extra man- had just arrived at the line-out and was not allowed the time to assess the situation. Van Rooyen in this regard totally disagree stating unequivocally that it was not a quick throw-in and that the line-out had formed properly before the ball was thrown in.
Personally, I have difficulty to see how this sort of gamesmanship is different from taking a quick tap after a penalty and scoring a try alla Zinzan Brook against the Springboks in 1992 or worse alla New Zealand referee Paul Honiss instructing John Smit to talk to his players and then allowing the Irish flyhalf O’Gara to take a quick tap and score the winning try in November 2006 at Landswone road, Dublin.
If you study this picture, especially the crowd beyond the players, you must conclude that someone has scored. Not, obviously, the All Blacks. That’s Northern Transvaal, the place where they manufacture winning penalty goals from remarks in Afrikaans writes Terry McLean about this photograph.
The All Blacks, however, came out of the game feeling cheated to the extent that one player with a very moderate personality remarked: “If I had walked into the hotel bedroom straight after the final whistle instead of into the dressing room I would have wrecked everything in it. I was so wild at being cheated out of victory.”
The All Blacks felt they had beaten Northern Transvaal , but that they couldn't beat 'Uncle' Piet Robbertse.
Even worse for some Kiwis was that Thys started his speech at the post match reception with a prayer to thank the creator for the day and for rugby. You can sense the acid dripping reading Terry McLean description of this incident:
The most lenient view of Lourens’ action was that it was snide and shoddy.
When Lourens in his speech at the dinner started by thanking “Our Maker” for this day and for Rugby, the more percipient diners (which is no doubt all the Kiwis) gazed at him in a wild surmise.
Even in Rugby, “Our Maker” might not have approved shoddy tricks as a way of winning matches.
All Black Coach JJ Stewart in typical kiwi style had "no comment" about the referee after the match. However, there were several incidents in the match -in addition to the Oom-Piet-lineout issue- that raised eyebrows in the All Black camp. Robbertse disallowed an outstanding try by Bryan Williams; allowed three tries from NTVL in spite of prior infringements; allowed the NTVL players to lie on the wrong side of the rucks slowing down Kiwi ball; allowed offside play and several forward passes by NTVL, according to the Kiwis.
The general feeling was that NTVL played good rugby while the All Blacks did not fire on all cylinders but the game left a bad taste in the mouth because of the multitude questionable incidents.
Things developed an even more tasteless odour when Professor Fritz Elloff President of NTVL rugby union in breach of proper conduct used a comment by JJ Stewart made during a private conversation. Stewart said after the match to Elloff that "in our lifetime NTVL and the All Blacks would probably not meet again" and Elloff used that remark to illustrate that the All Blacks were so unhappy about the loss that they’ve threatened to never again play against NTVL.
Stewart made the remark in context of political developments and not in context of the match result and said so explicitly to Elloff during the conversation when Elloff asked what you mean. Stewart reproached Elloff for the unsavoury way the later used the comment before leaving the room spending the rest of the evening with the players at the bar. John du Toit of the Transvaler picked-up on this incident and wrote about it after which every other media man jumped on it, quoted it, and used it out of context.
John du Toit was instrumental in another unsavoury issue during the NTVL game via a pre-match article in which he -according to the Kiwis- started a smear campaign against Billy Bush. The article in the Transvaler -which was followed up with a very one sided article in Beeld by Quintes van Rooyen- turned the South African public in no uncertain way very negative towards Billy Bush. Du Toit and Van Rooyen wrote that Bush with his aggressive and obstreperous trouble-seeking behaviour is not only at risk to being sent off by a strict referee such as Piet Robbertse but that the Blue Bulls were not going to tolerate his over-aggressiveness. When Bush was dumped unceremoniously in front of the main stand by local hero Thys Lourens the act was greeted with loud partisan crowd approval. The cheers quickly turned into heckling when Bush revealed his feelings with a two-finger sign.
All these events and happenings distracted from what was really a splendid performance by the bulls. They played typical Northern Transvaal 10-man rugby and were excellent in the set piece as well as the breakdowns being the only SA team on the entire tour (tests included) that actually won the ruck contest against the Kiwi’s. Terry McLean writes:
There is no doubt Northerns were the better team. As holders of the Currie Cup, they fielded a fine, well-organised pack and two halfbacks in Tommy du Plessis and Joos le Roux who were not in the least interested in playing 15-man Rugby –down the field into touch or over the top, in front of the forwards, that was their order of battle.
Thys Lourens the Northern Transvaal captain who made himself very unpopular amongst the All Blacks with the way he conspired with referee Piet Robbertse to force a penalty in the dying seconds of the match. Some SA critics like Quintes van Rooyen were raving about Lourens after the NTVL/AB game and was writing him up as the captain the Springbok team should have. Mclean writes: Many critics led by Quintes van Rooyen, raved about Lourens as the Captain South Africa must have – “I hope they pick him,” said John Stewart. But he was not as good as Louis Muller on the other flank, or of the class of Louis Moolman and Moaner van Heerden at lock. Trollope was skilled, too, and Wynand Claassen roamed relentlessly from Number 8.
Wynand Claasen on the charge for NTVL against the 1976 All Blacks.
Tommy du Plessis kicking in the match against NTVL. NTVL played typical 10-man rugby and he and Joos le Roux kept the ball on the foot and in front of the pack
Regarding the All Blacks they were a team in a desperate situation with injury woes to cry from and the general feeling in the camp was that it is a tour that has gone on just too long and that 6 weeks is about long enough for a tour. McLean writes:
The game was not to be catalogued among the greater fixtures. The loss of the All Blacks of Williams with concussion and Johnstone with the ruptured rib cartilage which put him out of the tour was as crippling as the dismal inefficiency of Davis at the heels of a tired and dismal pack and of Fawcett indulging in hair-raising defensive actions which included no fewer than four touches missed off the left foot and a sensational, and utterly crazy, attempt to fly-kick at a ball bouncing in front of fast-moving Northerns forwards.
A sponsoring firm later named Fawcett as the All Blacks man of the match. Because he scored 19 points from an excellent try, three conversations and three penalty goals, he might have seemed entitled to the award; but, in fact, no All Black, Leslie or Bush alone excepted, warranted preference.
They were all fatigued in mind and body. Perhaps Leslie was right in saying that a tour of 6 weeks was quite long enough.
Lyn Davis the All Black No 9 was under extreme pressure behind a struggling pack. The top photo shows how NTVL stormed through the rucks with Joe Morgan in process of getting annihilated by Moaner van Heerden and the second photo shows Davis getting tackled by Tommy du Plessis.
The All Blacks' problems were compounded by injuries during the match in particular the rib injury to Brad Johnstone which forced Frank Oliver into emergency duty in the frontrow for the rest of the game. With the All Black scrum struggeling -Bush actually moving to loosehead on the Kiwi put-ins to try and stabilze the scrum- the kiwis were outplayed in the set piece. The All Blacks was also matched in speed to the loose ball and in rucking and mauling expertise.
The Northern Transvaal big men like Moaner van Heerden , Kresence Swanepoel, Louis Moolman and Louis Muller drove gaping holes in their defences.
It was tough going against NTVL. Here Ian Kirkpatrick is charging into a wall of light blue giants.
The Kiwi tackling was lacking full commitment and not entirely adequate and within the first two minutes of the match Doors van Rooyen scored in the corner after a bulldozing drive started by Moaner van Heerden. Pierre Spies scored twice in the 28th and 61st minutes and Trollope scored in the 44th minute.
When Piere Spies, a magnificent sprinter scored his second try, writes Terry McLean , Whitting was observed 40 meters up the field, trotting in a manner of a man utterly revolted by the inefficiencies of the All Blacks' defence. His attitude was not untypical of the team - they all had it; and they nearly got there because of good old kiwi pride.
Pierre Spies who scored two tries against the 1976 All Blacks for Northern Transvaal. There was a lot of interest on Spies who forfeited a change of Springbok rugby colours, to concentrate on athletics. Spies popped up on the left from the opposite wing to take a pass and gliding like and antelope showed the defence a clear pair of heels to score a glorious try but that was the extent of approving ticks behind his name. He looked shaky on defence, rusty in most other departments of the game and clearly not yet sharp enough for test rugby and was consequently again overlooked when the test side for the third test was announced. It was Kit Fawcett who started the All Blacks late charge which almost won them the match. He scored a marvellous solo try coming in to the line bursting through three tackles. His own conversation made the score 23-21 which became 26-21 when Joos le Roux dropped a goal. There was a minute of official playing time left on the clock when the All Blacks won a lineout in their own 22. The ball went down the line and Fawcett trust through at centre before sending Terry Mitchell away. Fawcett was the last man of a dozen to handle the ball before it went to Bruce Robertson who, cornered against the sideline, lifted a perfect cross kick. Andy Leslie was one of four All Black forwards who were on the spot to get the lucky bounce and stepping inside Pierre van Zyl he dotted down between the posts. Fawcett converted to make the score 27-26.
It was Kit Fawcett who started the All Blacks late charge which almost won them the match. He scored a marvellous solo try coming in to the line bursting through three tackles. His own conversation made the score 23-21 which became 26-21 when Joos le Roux dropped a goal. There was a minute of official playing time left on the clock when the All Blacks won a lineout in their own 22. The ball went down the line and Fawcett trust through at centre before sending Terry Mitchell away. Fawcett was the last man of a dozen to handle the ball before it went to Bruce Robertson who, cornered against the sideline, lifted a perfect cross kick. Andy Leslie was one of four All Black forwards who were on the spot to get the lucky bounce and stepping inside Pierre van Zyl he dotted down between the posts. Fawcett converted to make the score 27-26.
These pictures shows Andy Leslie running in for his try (top) and scores under the posts (bottom) in the last minute of official playing time. The South African media and NTvl players felt that Leslie was before Robertson when he hoisted his cross kick and therefore offside.
The clock showed 41 minutes but Oom Piet allowed three more lineouts before conspiring with Thys Lourens penalising the All Blacks for a man extra in the lineout. Joos le Roux slotted the difficult kick to end the match the All Black almost won but in fairness probably didn’t deserve to win.
These three pictures show Kit Fawcett in action against NTVL. In the top picture he evades the NTVL defendeers; in the second picture he runs over for his solo try missing one boot; in the bottom picture he scores with NTVL fullback Pierre van Zyl next to him. It was this try and move that would get Fawcett a place in the 3rd test team and which lead to intercept try by Johan Oosthuizen.
Pierre van Zyl
1 try, 3 con, 3 pen
Doors van Rooyen
Joos le Roux
Tommy du Plessis
2 con, 2 pen, 1 drop
Thys Lourens (C)
Andy Leslie (c)
Moaner van Heerden
Daan du Plessis
* replaced by Neil Purvis after 13 minutes; + replaced by Frank Oliver after 27 minutes
The match official was Piet Robbertse (ETVL); match attendance was 65 000.
Run of play
Van Rooyen try.
Fawcett penalty, 25 m.
Le Roux penalty, 22 m.
Fawcett penalty, 17 m.
Spies try, Le Roux convert.
Trollope try, Le Roux converts.
Fawcett penalty, 24 m.
Bruce Robertson try, Fawcett convert.
Fawcett try and converts.
Le Roux drop goal.
Leslie try. Fawcett convert.
Le Roux penalty.
Le Roux failed with four of six attempts at penalties. Williams failed with one while Fawcett missed three of six attempts. The game lasted 100 minutes because of a large number of injuries break-up.