Front page news of the Sunday Rapport was a remark by All Black coach JJ Stewart apparently made in aftermath of the Bloemfontein match: “I’ll be glad to get out of this stinking country.”
Ken Stewart tackle by De Wet Ras
There were a number of things which probably promted this statement not least of all the reaction of the New Zealand media in response to the violence the kiwi’s encountered in their previous two matches (3rd test and the Upington match); the dreariness of the match and of the stay in Bloemfontein as well as the criticism directed in the media towards Stewart namely that he was responsible for causing a split down the middle of the team through faulty selections.
From the New Zealand media and Rugby Board came a volley of discontent and disapproval with the brutality encountered in the preceding two matches; from the South African rugby board came a solemn attempt to tidy up things on the playing field. This culminated in some extreme tedious refereeing which made the game in Bloemfontein an extreme tedious affair.
The Upington match was played on a Monday -due to a public holiday- and the All Blacks therefore arrived in Bloemfontein on the Tuesday spending 5 days in what they regarded a “deadly dull Afrikaner stronghold”. Affected by this they were deadly dull on the Saturday in glorious summer weather and produced according to Terry McLean “the worst performance he had ever seen by an All Black team”. McLean writes:
At an early stage, five minutes after kick-off, Max Baise called the captains together. There had been a flurry between the forwards, nothing serious, but disquieting because of the savage criticisms which were being made in New Zealand about, as that inflammatory journal Sunday News described them, “Springbok savages”, and which caused the Mayor and the Bishop of Auckland both to exclaim that in self-protection the All Blacks should be ferried home immediately.
Max Baise took total control and produced an extreme monotonous demonstration of how to blow a game into nothingness; no fewer than 29 penalties were awarded amidst a constant barrage of peeps at almost every single scrum and lineout.
De Wet Ras kicked himself into oblivion in terms of ever coming close to a Springbok team again. No fewer than 14 times did he attempt place goals from penalties; more than half were from anywhere between 50 and 75 meters; successful with only three. He also missed with two drop kick attempts. Free State was awarded only 16 penalties –one turned around for talking back- which means that there was only one penalty which De Wet Ras didn’t take a place kick at goal. In total the goalkickers tried 20 shots at goal. A large part of this match was therefore nothing more than kickers going through the motions of setting up the ball, lining-up and kicking. Add to this the frequent stoppages for injuries and the ball going out of play the hold-ups for kicks at goal reduced the actual playing time to about 15 minutes. Many of the so-called injury stoppages smacked of gamesmanship, a ruse to break the other side’s concentration and rhythm on attack.
I still remember the flatness of this match; it was during this match that I as a 14 year-old rugby fanatic lost complete interest in the 1976 tour. I can’t recall even listening to last two matches namely the match against Griqualand West and the fourth test. Frankly, I couldn’t care anymore who won the series. I was stupefied that a team like Free State –which was playing extremely exciting rugby in 1976-, could make such a mockery of the game.
Free State –a team that won the Currie Cup in ’76 with magnificent running rugby- did score an excellent try with Gysie Pienaar coming into the line to put Gerrie Germishuys in space. They (OFS) was clearly the better side on the day in terms of moving the ball and late in the second half they made slashing attacks, one of which should have been a try had the referee observed the obstruction by Alan Sutherland. Blithely to this fact –that OFS were the superior outfit with ball in hand and that the All Blacks were NAVI (NO Ambition F-all interest – an Army term) and fed-up (gatvol) almost beyond the point of remedy, and not present on the field- Wouter Hugo directed one goal kick after another turning the match into a De Wet Ras goal kicking circus.
Where Free State was exciting and enterprising with the ball in hand the All Blacks were awful and mucked-up opportunity after opportunity to loose a match that they didn’t deserve to win. Terry McLean writes:
The All Blacks incomprehensively fired away a minimum of 12 and a probability of at least 18 points. Going hooked two easy penalties, one from 22 m in the first minute and another from 36 m in the 21st.
They were wretchedly bad kicks.
In the second half, to compound these instances of ineptitude, the All Blacks threw away three tries.
Williams had the goalline clear, 5 m ahead, but was nabbed. He passed to Sutherland, who was clear, but, rightly, Baise called his pass forward. Fawcett moved up the right touchline with Bruce Robertson and Mitchell alongside. It was a three to one situation; nothing could possibly have stopped Robertson from scoring. Nothing except Fawcett, who decided on one more Fancy-Dan sidestep and by so doing erased his name from the list of worthwhile contributors.
Williams, really the only All Black worth a damn – though Davis manage some good efforts after he joined the Rip von Winkles on the field – slashed up the field, going like the clappers. But with every step off his left foot he veered further and further away from Robertson and closer and closer to a cover-defence which beyond halfway, gratefully clasped him. Leaving Robertson way out yonder, gazing like stout Cortez at wild, blue, entirely unpopulated yonder.
As a consequence of the All Blacks playing like All Fools (using Terry McLean exasperation of annoyance) Free Sate became the third provincial side to topple the All Blacks. It was difficult to assess the merit of the win in relation to the performance by Western Province much earlier on tour simply because the All Blacks were nowhere as sharp in this fixture as they had been in the sixth match at Newlands.
Pressed for a rating, JJ Stewart gave Free State the accolade as the best provincial team. Many of the players still rated Western Province as the best side they played, while some of the forwards nominated Transvaal with its huge pack as the best they encountered. Transvaal and Northern Transvaal did produce some impressive and compelling –in intensity and efficiency- forward play against the tourist but the Free State pack’s ability to counter the All Black forwards was without a doubt key too the outcome of this match. The home pack with Ross van Reenen – a late replacement for Theuns Stofberg –having a cracker and well assisted by Klippies Kritzinger, Eben Jansen and Tiny du Plessis, took second half control and prevented the All Blacks from manufacturing a typical late comeback and another against-the-run-of-play-victory-snatch.
Barry Wolmarans –reserve for all four tests- produced one of the best scrumhalf performances of the tour while Gysie Pienaar was all class, exciting whenever he touched the ball and brimming with energy. Gerrie Germishuys seized his one change and scored after receiving a ball picked-up by Gazelle centre Dirk Froneman as it spilled backwards from a tackle on Joggie Jansen. Jansen has lost some speed and power since 1970 but not his ability to read the game and made one good break which could have led to a try if Klippies Kritzinger were a few pounds/kilograms lighter and half a yard faster.
Gerrie Germishuys evading Sid Going to score Free State’s only try.
Kritzinger on 127 kilograms -although some newspapers reported he was down to 111 kg after having been told that he should get ready to take a place in the bok team for the fourth test- was the surprise inclusion on No7 in the Springbok team in the place of Stofberg who got injured just before this match. That newspaper report –that Klippies lost 16 kg in three weeks- and the fact that Kritzinger seemed not the least surprised when he was told by one of the Kiwis, the evening after the Free State match, that he made the Springbok team for the 4th test seems to suggest that Kritzinger’s inclusion was not an injury replacement but dicided on at least three weeks before the Bloemfontein match.
There was crying need for more mobility on the side of the scrum -in the Springbok- team but once again the selectors opted for size and height, no doubt part of a plan to counter the kiwi’s in the scrums, lineouts and mauls in the last test. The Kiwis (All Back touring party and media) were stunned by this selection as these delightful few paragraphs by Terry McLean indicate:
Klippies had been 127 kg about three weeks beforehand but in the interest of his candidature for the Fourth Test team which was to be announced in the evening (after the Free State match) and for which he had been proclaimed a certainty –there was some good information here among some of the Afrikaans writers- Afrikaans newspapers now said he weighed only 111 kg.
Moving at about the maximum velocity of tuatara lizard, Klippies took a pass and headed for the corner 10 m distant. In no time Williams tagged him and Klippies crashed.
Yet he still made the ‘Bok team that night, this despite the ample evidence that his so-called skill or genius as a lineout forward had been completely demolished by Macdonald.
He was at the All Blacks’ party when one of the New Zealanders told him he made the Springbok team. Kritzinger shrugged offhandedly and burrowed into his bear. He, too, must have had good information.
Klippies Kritzinger in the lineout for Free State against the 1976 All Blacks. Kritzinger was a surprise inclusion –for everyone else except for him – in the Springbok team for the 4th test that evening.
Ken Stewart scored for the Kiwis in the 69th minute but it was too little too late.
Bruce Robertson again impressed with his speed and playmaking ability in the match against the Free State.
De Wet Ras
1 con, 3 pen
Tiny du Plessis
Ross van Reenen
Wouter Hugo (C)
Tane Norton (C)
Martiens le Roux
# replaced by Jan Schlebusch in the 72nd minute
* Replaced by Lyn Davis just after half time
Referee: Max Baise (Eastern Transvaal); Crowd 40 000.
Run of play
Williams penalty, 45 m.
Ras penalty, 40 m.
Germishuys try, Ras convert.
Ras penalty, 23 m.
Ras penalty, 36 m.
Williams penalty, 16 m.
Ras missed with 11 penalty and two drop goal attempts. Going missed with two attempts at goal and Williams with one.
The Kiwis looked like a team shackled by end-of-tour fatigued and struggled through this match in a patternless display that reduced them to a team playing without heart or hope.
On the evidence of this performance, the All Black looked ready for the plucking with absolutely no change of saving the series. They had, at times, merely gone through the motions and the media speculated that Stewart would not be able to fire them up for the big one in Ellis Park.
To complicate matters even more there was also the diversionary matter of a 160 km coach trip to Kimberley and the match against Griqualand West before they could start focussing on the last test match.
The trip to Kimberley –with a seemingly unhappy team- was a thriller on its own producing a number of on and off the field incidents like punch-ups, knife stabbings, heated arguments, hypocrisy, and send-offs –not all involving players- that further detracted from preparations for the last test.