The All Blacks have resonated well with Natal rugby over the years maybe because of it being predominantly an English community -the last outpost of the British Empire as Tommy Bedford described it in 1970. The friendships were renewed and McLean writes in general very positively about Natal rugby as he did in his book about the 1970 tour. The feeling I get is that he had a bit of soft spot for the Banana-boys and was just a little to elaborate with his praise and appreciation of players and province.
The match against Natal was, however, interesting in many ways. Natal -not one of the top provinces in SA in 1976- was playing reasonably good rugby and was certainly no walkover having beaten Transvaal 7-6 just a fortnight ago.
The Natal team had an out of the ordinary leadership and player structure with their outspoken talisman and captain Tommy Bedford still in the mix and one-test 1972 Springbok fullback Ray Carlson coaching and playing on flyhalf. Terry McLean has these attention-grabbing paragraphs on Bedford and Carlson:
Bedford, who today was playing in his 117th game for Natal, in theory should long have been over the hill and tobogganing down the other side. But, as Leslie could testify, he was still a fit, able player with an ice-cold tactical brain and almost as many tricks as the late, and much lamented Izak van Heerden had ideas.
By his sage influence, Natal produced some spirited play which demanded diligent defence by the All Blacks and speed in their counter-attacking.
Ray Carlson was one on Natal’s major nuisances to the All Blacks, especially with the deft little punt pitching just behind the All Blacks’ midfield backs. Lots of rushing around to capture those kicks, one way or the other. Away up north, at Twickers, they might have looked at Carlson with a certain curiosity. He was Natal’s player-coach, or coach-organizer, and presumably was compensated for his services. (It was not all a secret that the Natal union’s preference for him over Oxlee had caused major ruckus.) Was he, therefore, a professional? In other days, there might have been no end to the discussion on the point. Nowadays, it was not even raised.
Tommy Bedford (in the picture above) ex-Springbok captain was still playing outstanding rugby for Natal in spite of being chucked out by the Springbok selectors after his infamous remark in 1970 about Natal being the last outpost. Bedford, who won 25 Springbok caps, was a Rhodes Scholar who had captained Oxford and was probably one of the most colorful Springboks of all time. He played his last test for the Springboks in 1971 against France and went on the 71 tour to Australia but didn’t play in any of the tests. The Australian Dick Cocks is the big fellow with moustache behind Bedford and the All Black is Peter Whiting.
Natal also had players like the ex-Australian Dick Cocks playing on the flank, an excellent scrumhalf in Stan Holmes, the tall Mike van Zyl on the lock who commanded his area of the line-out, and two lively wings in Keith Thorreson and Tubby Hanaford as well as the tall Adrian (Doc) Louw on fullback. Piston van Wyk was a physical presence as always on no 2 and did enough in this match –even though most SA critics and the All Blacks did not agree- to earn a place in the test side for the third test.
Stan Holmes (picture above) at scrumhalf weighed only 67.6 kg but for liveliness and courage was among the giants of the game, according to Terry McLean.
Keith Thorreson (picture above) played on the left wing for Natal. McLean writes: he was undoubtedly one of the most effective backs encountered by the All Blacks on tour. He was quick. He was alert. He beautifully combined these valuable qualities.
In this picture Ray Carlson appears on the left with Mike Brenon between Carlson and Doc Louw kicking the ball. There are not many tries that will compare with the one Doc Louw scored in this match writes Terry McLean: Natal won a quick lineout, Wang made a long pass to Hannaford on the right wing and Louw a tall man, moved up inside. Both Duncan Robertson and Fawcett had a go at him, but he was just too fast – he was untouchable.
Mike Brenon in the picture was involved in two dust-ups in the match. One with Kit Fawcett and one with that little dynamo Grant Batty who played probably his best game on tour providing the South African public a glimpse of why he was rated the best left wing in the world.
Plagued by injury, Batty didn’t have too many opportunities on tour to convince the South African public why he was so highly rated internationally. Fact is most of us thought he was a bit of a joke with his fox terrier on field behavior and his Robo cop knee brace. But he sure showed his class in Durban collecting two tries by stepping inside bewildered defenders, starting attacks from nothing and then by featuring in a decent stand-up fight with Mike Bernon.
Bernon had earlier taken offence with Fawcett after the last mentioned lost his cool and charged ten meters into a ruck and started trampling recklessly on a Natal player lying on the ground and then delivered a karate like chop to the neck of another player in the ruck. This earned the crowd’s displeasure and the booing became a routine thing thereafter whenever Fawcett got near to the ball as a result of Fawcett responding to the initial booing with the V-sign. The booing extended later to Batty when he became incensed and started throwing punches at Bernon who tried to screw his neck of after he’d released the ball. Bernon fought back and the scene resembled a boxing ring before team mates could separate them.
This was unfortunate but it also inspired both Batty and Fawcett to being the spice of an excellent New Zealand performance. Fawcett was involved in almost everything and hardly put a foot wrong and Batty after limping of early in the game –his knee brace have slipped- returned to score two excellent tries. In one try he perfectly demonstrated his stop-start technique for a try.
Sid Going was the other outstanding Kiwi on the field. His place kicking was almost flawlessly on target succeeding with 7 out of 9 kicks. Kirkpatrick scored -at last on tour- after being the last receiver of the renowned Going, Going, Going scissors move.
The All Blacks had used this moved -developed 12 years ago by the three Going brothers playing for North Auckland- for the first time on tour at Witbank and it produced a try for Joe Morgan. Now they used it again, three players working a double scissors, and the Natalians was completely baffled allowing Kit Fawcett to put Kirkpatrick over for his try.
Kirkpatrick on the charge against Natal. Kirky was more relieved than happy to get back on the try-scoring list. It was his first try on tour -after 10 outings- hoisting his tally for New Zealand to 48.
Andy Leslie scored from a pushover and Bryan Williams capitalized after a searing run by Bruce Robertson. Graeme Crossman also got into the try scoring act after having scored earlier the week in Witbank which was apparently the first try by an All Black hooker after 31 games.
Bruce Robertson who was starting to play better and better as the tour progressed. Here is two pictures showing him turning on the pace against Natal. Piston van Wyk is the Nataler behind Robertson in the firts picture and Kent Lambert the All Black trying to stay in support in the second picture
Bryan Williams props and step to the inside to go and score late in the second half against Natal.
This completed a satisfying week for the Kiwis in which they scored 90 points and 14 tries. There wasn’t much wrong with their performance against Natal but for the careful observer it was clear that there was still some problems in the scrum; that there was a need for more drive and greater work rate in the engine room and that the lineout play was not entirely convincing against a Natal lineout that certainly didn’t rate as one of the best in the country.
1 try, 1 pen
6 con, 1 pen
Tommy Bedford (c)
Andy Leslie (C)
Mike van Zyl
Piston van Wyk
Crowd 30000 and the referee was Fonnie van der Vyver (Northern Transvaal).
Run of play
Going penalty, 36 m.
Williams penalty, 42 m.
Crossman try, Going convert.
Batty try, Going convert.
Hanaford penalty, 23 m.
Kirkpatrick try, Going convert.
Hanaford penalty, 33 m.
Leslie try, Going convert.
Batty try, Going convert.
Williams try, Going convert.
Hanaford penalty, 21 m.
Hanaford and Going both missed two penalties.
Hanaford kicking for Natal.
Duncan Robertson kicking against Natal. Robertson was a surprise inclusion on No 10 in the third test side. An inclusion probably based on the fact that the All Blacks scored 14 tries (7 per game) in the last two tour matches in which he played on the flyhalf. It also gave the impression that the All Blacks was planning to employ running tactics for the third test.