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Reaction on the tour and some final remarks

Euphoric newspaper headlines praising the Springboks as world champions were at the order in the Sunday and Monday newspapers.

In the All Black side there was no singing and partying after the test. Only a few of the team showed up at the post match reception.

Most players just sat round the lounge, morose and reflective. Vodanovich is almost heart-broken. “We'll have to start looking for backs," he mutters.

The final party of the tour took place at Jannie le Roux's house. Gielie de Kock the editor of the magazine Dagbreek accompanied the All Blacks to Jannie le Roux’s but was ordered by le Roux to leave the premises as no journalist was welcome at his place. Since his row with one of the Transvaalers reporters and his subsequent refusal to allow the Transvaler's sports journalists into Ellis Park to report on the fourth test Le Roux received much critism and was badly drawn apart by the South Africans sport media. Colin Meads and Chris Laidlaw pointed it out to le Roux that Gielie (David write it Kieley) de Kock was there as a guest of the All Black team and if he has to leave the All Blacks will leave too. A shoulder shrug response from le Roux led to the AB departing and continuing the party in Gielie de Kock's hotel room.

Jannie le Roux the Transvaal rugby boss who made quite a fuss about nothing. Neither the New Zealand supporters nor team or the South African media held him in high esteem.

David concludes his book with the words:

It had been a great tour. It was a successful failure in some ways. But, above all, it had been truly worth it.

In a similar vein that David Gabriel began his book Terry McLean (the award-winning New Zealand sport journalist and author who also wrote a book about the tour with the title; Battling the boks) groans and complains extensively about the Springboks conservative style, the fact that South Africa was not prepared to play young and exciting players and the fact that AB had to play against very weak provincial sides and about the many illegal and dirty incidents on tour.

He complained as follows about the Springboks conservative style:

I do not think it can be questioned that the All Blacks in losing the war won the battle which was the sort of rugby that ought to be attempted by all teams at all levels. Their best, play, even, at times, their worst play, did have gaminess about it; it was a sport, risks were taken, and there was the infinite pleasure of something constructed.

Is it my imagination or have I heard this recently; was it perhaps after the 2007 World Cup tournament when their "attractive" rugby caused their downfall? I think the point is rather irritating especially when one considers that the Springboks scored 6 tries versus only 3 by the All Blacks in the 1970 series.

McLean continues to steam along with this infuriating whingeing:

By contrast, the South African teams laboured. The Springboks were not initiators. They sought to unbalance and destroy the All Blacks’ rhythm and to pick up such crumbs as might fall. A back such as Visagie, who had pretty well all the talents, including a sidestep as nimble as Nurevey’s turned himself into a kicker who in 320 minutes of the test series made only one run. It was a good one, no doubt that, but not too many risks would have been taken if he had made more attempts. I said “turned himself”. Ought I have to have said, “was turned”? 

Piet Visagie which Terry Mclean rated as an outstanding bal player with all the natural ability to be a running flyhalf but who was turned into a kicking one by SA Rugby.

McLean keep on whining while labouring an argument that the conservative and one-dimensional playing style of the Springboks also found expression in team selection. For example, someone like Mannetjies Roux -whom he disliked to the extreme and who he regard as a dirty, self-centred even mean rugby player- was chosen above brilliant playmakers such as Johan Walters (WP), Rex Greyling (Natal), Piet Cronje (Transvaal) and Andre van Staden (Northern Transvaal). Other outstanding playmakers whom he reckons should have played for the Springboks are Tonie Roux (NTVL fullback), Frannie Alberts (NTVL wing) and Hannes Viljoen (Natal wing).

Most of these players –mentioned above- did eventually play for South Africa. It is interesting that when New Zealand had a conservative approach in 1956 and 1965 against the Springboks no kiwi complained about the type of rugby that they were playing. It is well documented that the South Africa back play was far superior to that of New Zealand in 1956 and 1965 while New Zealand had the superior forward pack. Footage of the 1956 and 1965 tests shows that New Zealand’s main approach was to spoil and rush though the lineout’s; very rarely if ever did they play with their backline in both of those series. Most of the AB tries during those respective test series (1956 and 1965) resulted from South African mistakes; that is from a conservative safety first focus while South Africa was trying to play open attractive and entertaining rugby.

However in 1970 and again in 1976 after they lost the respective series McLean’s whingeing about South Africa being negative and conservative are the main themes that runs like barbed wire through his two books about the respective tours; they (New Zealand) lost these series (1970 and 1976) according to McLean because the adversaries played negative rugby.

I wonder whether he would have complained about the "old" players in the Springbok team if New Zealand had won the 1970 series. The fact is the Springboks of 1970 paid their school fees. A substantial amount of them did their apprenticeships on the 1965 tour and the Springboks paid the price by losing the series trying to play “attractive” rugby with young talented and exciting back. It makes absolutely no sense to then cast such players aside for new exciting young talent just in order to entertain the opposition with flap flap rugby. The young player thing was tried during the 69/70 end year tour to the UK and it was a fiasco.

The Springboks picked a side that could play the way they needed to play to win the series. After the Griqualand-west game the Springbok selectors Ian Kirkpatrick, Daan Swiegers and coach Johan Claassen were highly 

concerned when they met up after the match. Ian Kirkpatrick words were: "Holy smoke, how are we going to beat these bastards?" Clearly, these wise men of SA Rugby decided on a particular strategy and selected their teams in accordance with that particular game plan. The decision was that the All Blacks should be confronted upfront and their backs should be tackled out of their rhythm.

Gabriel David (Rugby and be Damned), Terry McLean (Battling the boks) and Harding and Williams (Toughest of them all) indicate in their respective books that the "defining moment" in the 1970 series was Joggie Jansen's tackle on Cottrell.

Harding and Williams worded it as follows:

Those who saw Joggie Jansen’s tackle on Wayne Cottrell at Loftus Versfeld still talk about it. So do those who may have been a thousand miles away listening to the match on the radio, but who have gradually came round to the view that they did in fact, see that tackle. Men still approach Jansen at rugby dinners to discuss it.

Perhaps, like all legends, it has grown in the telling. But was Jansen’s tackling really that impressive when compared to the frequent big hits of the 1990’s? The answer must be yes because he was so destructive. He seems to have had the ability and the presence to disrupt an entire opposition backline, not merely block a particular movement. His 

tackles were also genuinely offensive, in that the ball often went loose, to be snatched up by him or one of his team mates.

It intriques me that McLean and David admit that the Jansen-tackle -and therefore by implication the Springboks game plan- won them the series but then complains in the same sentence/breath about the type of rugby South Africa played and about the players the Springboks selected to enforce that game plan. Mannetjies Roux –who McLean clearly thought was over the hill- contributed much to Jansen's effectiveness on defence; it was Roux who created two tries by pouncing on balls spilling loose after Jansen tackles. I wonder just how much longer will we hear this lame argument from the Kiwi's.

The most disturbing game in terms of foul play was the Eastern Transvaal game when Colin Meads got his arm fractured from a kick by Henderson while lying trapped on the ground. The most sensational incident was the Nomis McCormick incident and it was McLean who interviewed McCormick after the game and broke the story that Fergie intentionally struck Nomis with his the elbow because he would have done anything at the time to prevent a certain try. McLean included the whole interview in his book “Battling the boks”.

The following paragraph is part of that interview:

“I hit him,” says the All Black fullback, McCormick. “Of course, I never intended to knock his teeth out. But the situation was very dangerous. Nomis had to be stopped. I might even have gone as far as foot-trip him. As it was I copped him, accidentally, I might say, with my left elbow – right on the point of it.”

McCormick does not excuse his action. In fact, to be frank, I do not think there is any ground for excusing it.

Looks to me like a case of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If the Kiwi's won with conservative rugby then conservative rugby is good rugby and if they need to intimidate opponents in order to ascertain ascendency upfront then intimidation is acceptable just don’t do it to them.  

Alan Sutherland busy intimidating Piston van Wyk with Hannes Marais already on the way down. Eish, I thought it's just the Springboks who used this sort of tactics. 

That man Sutherland again this time jumping on Mof Myburg's back with his knees while the game goes on in the background.

Finally, I believe the 1970 tour was of immense importance for SA rugby. This series won brought the pride and the self-belief back after Springbokrugby went through incredible lows in 1956 as well as in the years 1961 to 1965 and during the 69/70 end year tour when they could not win a single test against the British Home Nations. It is this 1970 series which carried SA rugby through the isolation years and which helped us to keep the belief that we can win the World Cup. This was a massive series for South Africa and one of the reason why a player like Frik du Preez got the award as South Africa's rugby player of the century.  

Johan Claassen the Springbok coach during 1970 series. Classen played in 28 tests for the Springboks (1955-1962) and coached the boks for 18 (1964-1974) tests with a success record of 55%. 

Ian Kirkpatrick, one of the selectors during the 1970 series. He has played 13 tests (1953-1961), most on inside centre (two on flyhalf). In the years 1967 to 1977 he coached the Springboks in 12 tests with a 75% success record.