Weather: fine, calm day.
Crowd: 45 000.
Referee: Fonnie van der Vyver (Northern Transvaal).
Morné du Plessis (C)
Andy Leslie (C)
Derek van den Berg
# Replaced by Ivan Ortlepp
+ Replaced by Lyn Davis after 68 minutes
Before the game incidents/issues/stuff
Morné du Plessis a man dogged by controversy no matter what he does was the main topic of concern for Cape journalist before the match. The big question was would the Springbok No8 be fit to take his place in the match after a three weeks lay off because of a broken jaw in a bruising encounter against Transvaal. In the Transvaal match he was the target of a fiercely combative Transvaal pack and at times was trampled unmercifully in rucks and punched in the face.
It has been felt for some time in Cape Town that the coaching should be given to the Captain. Western Province had thus entrusted the 26-year-old Du Plessis with the coaching. Province have been dubbed as a side with a glas jaw by critics in the north in 1976 after they had been badly beaten by Transvaal and then suffered a humiliating defeat a week later at the hands of Western Transvaal in Potchefstroom with Du Plessis sitting on the sideline. Morné biggest challenge was therefore to get his maligned team to gel and too belief that they can win.
Morné du Plessis leading his team on the field. This day belonged to Morné; his inspirational leadership was seen as instrumental to the relentless spirit with which the Province team played to clinch a surprise victory against the 1976 All Blacks.
When the final whistle went, at 5 pm, on July 17, Du Plessis and his team had accomplish the seemingly impossible; beating the All Blacks; coming from behind 0-11 with just 17 minutes left on the clock. The secret of the Western Province triumph that day lay mainly in the superb motivation and leadership skill of Morné du Plessis. Morné established himself with this performance as the Springbok captain for the first test a week later. The luck of the draw -being the last team to play the All Blacks before the first test- no doubt also helped the cause of borderline candidates for the Springbok team in the Province side like Boland Coetzee, Derek van den Berg and Robert Cockrell.
For the Kiwi’s it was the first defeat since 1973 when England beat them on a short tour at home. This is interesting because just a year before namely in 1972 England have beaten the Springboks in South Africa also on a short 1 test tour. At the time it was a devastating humiliation for South Africa –after the unbeaten Springbok tour though Australia- in 1971. I can still remember the shock and disbelief in SA when Piet Greyling’s Springbok team was shown up in that one off test against England. Dawie Snyman had a shocker on No10 and debutant Springboks Piet du Plessis (lock) and Ray Carlson (No15) would never play for South Africa again. It was also a career ending test for Piet Greyling (No6), Albie Bates (No8), Joggie Jansen (No12) and Joggie Viljoen (No9).
Dawie Snyman during the test in 1972 against England.
Back to the All Blacks of 1976 and their game against WP. The primary issue for the AB’s before the game was the fact that injury ridden Peter Whiting could not play.
Run of play
Mains penalty, 23 meters.
Duncan Robertson try.
Bossie Clark try. Blair converts.
Chris Pope try. Blair converts.
About the match
Terry McLean begins his section in his book “Goodbye to Glory” with the following:
Morné du Plessis had to be mad. Every time the All Blacks were penalized, and God knows that was often, he called Robbie Blair to take the kick. Every time Blair missed. Once, from only 16 meters and directly in front, he only managed to strike an upright.
So the time dragged on and with 19 minutes to play the All Blacks led 11-0. Not a change now, for Western Province to repeat that glorious deed against Maurice Brownlie’s All Blacks of 1928 when, in the week before the final international, the famous “Umbrella test” at Newlands, they won decisively by 10 to 3.
Even after a most dubious penalty call against Stewart had been turned into a try by Bossie Clarke and Blair goaled, the game still seemed set for the All Blacks. After all, didn’t Blair next miss a 43 m attempt at goal, his eight penalty for the game, and so leave the All Blacks sitting on a five-point lead with seven minutes to play?
Dawie Snyman, not quite the lightning genius of his reputation, picked-up a ball missed by Grant Batty, in the 79th minute and side stepped up the right hand touch line. When he was checked, du Plessis, a huge, towering figure, moved down the field like a runaway Eifel Tower. The All Blacks’ defence was in agony. First-line and cover-defenders rushed across field. At the right moment, Du Plessis unloaded; and Pope, sniffing the tryline ahead, crashed over it by the corner-flag as 46 000 spectators went mad.
The moment, now, of truth, gospel truth for Robbie Blair. Certainly, because he was left-footed, this kick from the right flank naturally favoured his left-to-right flight. Still, hadn’t he missed all those kicks beforehand? Hadn’t he shown out a shaky nerve for all to see? By the law of averages, no change, now, for the All Blacks to lose.
But the moment the ball was struck, you knew it was a goal. Up in the air, sky-high, sky-high, the kick soared. The ball cleaved the uprights dead centre. Province were ahead, 12 to 11.
Chris Pope scoring the winning try.
Talking about place kicking, Laurie Mains, essentially, cost New Zealand the game by missing both conversions –only 15 meters away from the posts; he was also glaring in his absence on defense when Pope scored WP’s second try. His performance in this match basically cost him a place in the test side.
To blame to defeat on Mains kicking would be unfair as all was not well in the NZ camp. In the absence of key lineout man Peter Whiting the All Blacks struggled to win good lineout possession. The All Blacks was not able to dominate the lineouts, mauls or the tight-loose defence, or to marry attacks among the three-quarters but strangely reverted to 10-man rugby.
There was some activity about the Province pack at Deuchar among the locks and at Cockrell at hooker which meant they had men mingling in the All Black attack more often than the All Blacks would have desired, writes Terry McLean.
The New Zealanders’ problems were compounded by the loss of scrumhalf Sid Going, who limped off twenty minutes from the end with a hamstring strain. It was during his absence -with the replacement Lyn Davis not yet on the field- that Province scored their first try.
Discipline on the field was another issue that directly led to Bossie Clarke’s try. The All Blacks were arguing with the referee about a late charge ruling he made on Bryan Williams which culminated in Mr van der Vyver marching 10 paces closer. While the All Blacks were still grumbling about the penalty and the unfair second call Serfontein seized the ball, ran and kicked to just short of the goalline. Gary Seear was there and made a gallant attempt to check and kill the ball. The ball went one way as rugby balls do and Seear went the opposite direction and there was Bossie Clarke to grasp it and score.
About Divan Serfontein Terry McLean writes:
Here was a scrumhalf of true promise. If his pass needed a wind-up, his other accomplishments, based upon a lively intelligence, concealed his deficiency. It was he, more than Blair, who won the game.
Divan Serfontein kicking. It was his clever thinking that led to Bossie Clarke’s try. A player of true potential and who more than anyone else won the game for Province according to Terry McLean.
Bossie Clarke scring his try after a box kick by Divan Serfontein.
Despite several Springboks namely Whipp, Oosthuizen, Pope and Dawie Snyman in the backline the Province backline never looked dangerous.
Johan Oosthuizen who didn’t have a particular good game but did enough to get the nod for the No12 jersey in the Bok team the following weekend.
The Province backrow Du Plessis, Jan-Boland Coetzee and Piet Veldsman were outstanding.
Morné du Plessis and Piet Veldsman who had outstanding games against the 76 All Blacks.
Some action photos from the All Black Province match in 1976.
Jan-Boland Coetzee had a blinder and played himself right into the first test side. He flew of the side of the scrum and roved and hunted mercilessly, forcing the Kiwi backs into mistakes behind the vantage line. From a constructive view he was just as successful showing great foraging ability, staggering work rate in the tight-loose and handsome driving with the ball in hand.
Jan-Boland Coetzee who had a blinder against the 1976 All Blacks and who played himself into the Springbok team with an all over sterling performance.
After the game reactions/occurrences
“I tried not to think of anything as I lined up the ball,” said Robbie Blair afterwards. “I just knew the kick had to go over.”
It was, he claimed, because the All Blacks asked for the balls to be slightly deflated that he had difficulty kicking accurately. “I prefer the balls very tight,” he said.
Robbie Blair who missed eight penalties but kicked the two conversations from the side line which really mattered for Provimce to clinch the match.
When WP played against the Free State in the semi-finals of the 1976 Currie Cup competition, a few weeks later, Blair was on song with his boot and helped Province to win that match with his place kicking, before suffering a leg injury which put him out of the game for the rest of the season. Blair, therefore, was not able to play in the 1976 Currie Cup final which Free state went on to win, in Bloemfontein; their first ever Currie Cup.
Jay Jay Stewart –the AB coach- remembering kindly a man who had beaten his side by doing what was necessary when it was absolutely necessary, wrote Blair a sympathetic note and, as a tribute, sent him an All Black tie. Readers of the Cape Argus were delighted with that story about one of their heroes. Blair was deeply touched.
It was Ian Kirkpatrick’s 100th game for the All Blacks making this loss - for him and the rest of the team- a more than usual bitter disappointment.
Kirkpatrick here on left played in his 100th game in an All Black jersey. Going is busy kicking with Tane Norton on his knees with Kobus Immelman on his back. In the back from left to right are Robert Cockrell, Andy Leslie, Boland Coetzee, Kent Lambert and Morné du Plessis.