Test matches are about pressure; the ability to create pressure and to handle pressure. Handling and creating pressure has to do with tactics, key players, and senior players stepping up. This was in essence the difference between NZ and SA in the second test of the 1976 series. NZ had a superior game plan while South Africa’s strategic approach neither created nor alleviated pressure.
The pressure for South Africa started with the team selection as the limitations so obvious in the Springbok team during the first test wasn’t rectified with the selection of the team for the second test. The game plan South Africa evidenced on the field of play neutralized the strengths of their match winners or key players which resulted in them not able to build pressure.
This was a match NZ just had to win as they were heavily criticized for letting the first test get away and it is a shame that neither the Springbok team nor the selectors saw the opportunity clearly. With the right players on the paddock and/or the appropriate tactics South Africa could have dealt the kiwis a psychological blow of mind shattering proportions in Bloemfontein.
The pressure on the kiwis going into this test was so intense that Andy Leslie felt no elation but only relieve after the final whistle had been blown. “I was just relieved,” said Leslie after the match. “That’s all, relieved. To be honest when I got to the dressing room I went into the toilet and vomited. I was too worried about losing to be happy about winning.”
New Zealand pundits reckon it was the senior players, in particular, Going and Whiting who won this test for them which is true but NZ also stepped away from the romantic notion they seem to foster that test matches should be won with total rugby.
The All Black hero’s of the match. On the left Billy Bush who controlled the scrum, in the middle Peter Whiting who controlled the lineout and on the right Joe Morgan who scored the only try of the match.
Noticeably, NZ approached this match with the right tactics namely defend like Trojans, create pressure at set piece and at the breakdowns and play the game in oppositions half of the field. Terry McLean has the following regarding the New Zealand approach towards this test:
To take a step forward in terms of tour results, the All Blacks decided to take a step backward in time. Not today would they embrace the free-running, adventurous game they had proclaimed as their article of faith. What was wanted was the matter of victory, not the manner of it.
Hence the principal clash would be at forward, with possession being directed by Going and Bruce to “The Box”, or over the top of the advancing Springbok defensive line. Always into the areas vacant of Springboks. The plan was to hunt, harass and destroy.
Going was superb on the day; he created both Joe Morgan’s try and the drop kick by Doug Bruce with two splendid reverse passes the one to Bruce between his legs under extreme pressure.
Going’s greatest on field contribution was, however, his tactical kicking; he kept the Springboks under pressure with long raking rolling kicks down the touch line and with some splendid aerial punts both of which poor old Dawie Snyman had no idea how to handle. Going’s greatest match winning contribution was, nonetheless, not on the playing field but in what he did before the match. Terry McLean explains:
Not by nature a man who cared to offer opinions before they had been asked for, Sid took to brooding about the state of mind of the New Zealand team. It seemed to him the All Blacks had persuaded themselves that their loss of the first test was the fault of luck and Ian Gourlay. Many South Africans told them this. Easy comfort. But not for Super-Sid. In his opinion, the All Blacks had missed too many important tackles, they had muffed passes and catches, they had chucked away changes. In a word, they had not been unlucky to lose. They had beaten themselves.
Going took his problem to Andy Leslie. He argued his case. Something must be done, he said as a shake-up. Leslie agreed. Steps were taken to get hold of the film of the Durban test. A general meeting was called of the players. The film was shown. The inquesting began. Tackles missed here, balls dropped there – Dinna ye see it, boys.
The boys saw. They argued. They beat their breasts and rent their hair. They began to fire up. On the morning of the test, Gerhard Burger, the charming, capable, courteous correspondent of the Vaderland, walked along the corridor of the hotel floor reserved for the All Blacks. He sensed the mood. “I knew then,” he said, “that there was no way the Springboks were going to win this match.”
Going was the general behind a dominating All Black pack. He roll kicked (first photo) and aerial punted (second photo); he reverse passed to create deception under pressure such as can be seen in the third photo to put Joe Morgan in space allowing him to score an outstanding try and he back passed a ball between his legs to create space for Doug Bruce to kick the match clinching drop goal.
The test within the test for the All Blacks came, as in Durban, between the 5th and the 20th minute of the second half when the Springboks started to stage a bit of a comeback. It was during this stage that South Africa kept on playing the wrong tactics and during which Gerald Bosch as one of the key players in the Springbok team just didn’t step up and exert the control which could have won South Africa the match.
In contrast the All Black senior players stepped up during this period. Going was glorious landing important penalty goals, creating opportunities with innovative play and keeping the pressure on the ‘boks with his tactical kicking. But there was one perilous moment 16 minutes from time when from broken play Boland Coetzee went charging for the corner. The try seemed inevitable when, from nowhere, Peter Whiting emerged, and, with one of test match Rugby’s greatest tackles, drove Coetzee out across the touchline a metre from the corner flag.
There was some other great tackles by Williams on Germishuys, Going on Johan Oosthuizen and Kevin Eveleigh on Morné du Plessis during the match. Grand tackles that created pressure and which prevented South Africa from getting into the match.
Whiting, however, was a colossus and New Zealand’s superstar. He had no right to be playing like he did after his back injury, his rib cartilage injury and a dose of flu just days before the test. “It was only because I was late to the ruck that I saw him,” said Whiting modestly afterwards about the tackle on Boland Coetzee.
It was without a doubt the most decisive tackle of the series and had the All Black supporters swooning after the match but fact is that Whiting was the most commanding forward on the field. He was in total control at the lineouts, he took vital marks from 22-metre dropouts and he lent his weight mightily to scrums which tied the Springbok pack in knots. The All Blacks wheeled magnificently, repeatedly upsetting the scrum on South Africa’s put-in, giving Bayvel only scraps to use.
Peter “Pole” Whiting did almost everything in this match. Here he torpedo the ball into touch after catching a mark right at the end of the game.
Morné du Plessis admitted that he was concerned about the mental state of the Springboks before the test. The mental state impacted on how the Springboks applied themselves at the tackle area and culminated in the Springboks losing composure and folding under pressure.
No matter how you look at it South Africa was comprehensively outplayed and didn’t deserve to win –Morné du Plessis admitted as much during his post match interview- but the ‘Boks could have sneaked a win if they were able to handle the mental demands. There was a moment in the second half when South Africa could have equalled the score with the potential to then go on and sneak ahead but Paul Bayvel in a moment of madness had a penalty reversed which allowed New Zealand to clear and systematically apply the screws.
The incident was in the 12th minute of the second half when Sid Going got caught in a ruck near his own 22-metre line. Going tried valiantly to exit but couldn’t and the next instant was penalized for holding on to the ball on the ground. It was a golden opportunity for Bosch to level the scores, but in the next two seconds Paul Bayvel astonishingly charged in and kicked at Going. Referee Gert Bezuidenhout promptly reversed his decision and New Zealand cleared.
It was the pressure that was getting to the Springboks. New Zealand won the pressure battle on three accounts; firstly in the set piece (scrum and lineout); secondly with a better game plan; thirdly, at the breakdowns or tackle area.
South Africa’s problems started in the tight five. They were given another jolly good hiding with the All Black pack dominating early lineouts, controlling their own scrummage balls, rucks and effectively wheeling the Springbok scrum to establish a stranglehold on the match which the Springboks never looked like prising loose.
Until the entry of Transvaal’s massive Kevin de Klerk in the 22nd minute after John Williams had to leave the field with a broken nose it didn’t look like the Springboks were going to get any sort of quality ball. So comprehensive was the All Black dominance up front that De Klerk’s arrival on the field was welcomed with an appreciative roar by the 71 000 strong Bloemfontein crowd.
Immediately De Klerk soared high, rocklike and immovable, providing the first and thereafter only consistent source of clean possession for the home team. Tragically for the Springboks the backline had by that stage been reduced to rubble; so jittery and shattered in their confidence that the All Blacks didn’t even need to apply pressure to force mistakes.
John Williams left the field in the 22nd minute with a broken nose. Early reports said the wound was accidental, Williams had somehow run into MacDonald’s elbow. Further bulletins did not support this encouraging account.
The arrival of Kevin de Klerk as a replacement for John Williams was greeted with a roar of approval by the 71 000 spectators. De Klerk immediately made an impression by soaring high in the lineout to take his ball. This picture is of course undisputable evidence for the Kiwis that De Klerk was lifted in the line-outs –something which was against the rules in 1976.
The Springboks game plan and the inability Gerald Bosch to take the game by the scruff of the neck and enforce his will on it has to get the blame for the backlines appalling performance and lack of structure. Bosch was disappointing; he was only a pale shadow of the Bosch of old. Gone were those demanding and deep raking tactical kicks to the corner which drove the opposition back and which kept his own pack on the front foot, bristling with vigour and confidence.
Bosch kept on running the ball along the backs at every opportunity, no matter how poor the ball received and how organised and menacing the kiwi midfield defence charging at them. Kevin Eveleigh, that relentless fleet of feet pursuer, fed on the Springbok backline trying to run with back foot ball and spread destruction and tackled the Springbok midfield into an untidy, jittery jumble.
Gerald Bosch who kept the Springboks in the run with three penalty goals. Bosch was however at fault for not taking the match by the scruff of the neck in the second half and stamping his will firmly on matters. It is unclear whether Bosch played under instruction or whether he allowed himself to fall into the trap of trying to play the running game. South Africa scored two splendid tries with their wings in the first test. The one by Germishuys a truelly astonishing effort by the whole backline and the Springboks were afterwards heavily criticized for not using their backline more. Maybe Bosch and the team were just responding on that criticism but irrespective of the reason Bosch read the game poorly as there were opportinities within the test for a player of his talent to stear and steal the match away from the Kiwis.
The importance of winning the battle at the breakdowns was apparently totally oblivious to the Springboks. The lesson that you can’t win test matches if you don’t go forward at the breakdowns was still foreign to the South African mindset as is evident in the match statistics of all the tour matches as well as the stats of the test matches.
Not in one single match did a South African team won the ruck contest and that is only one way to look at it. Winning the ball at the tackle area is only half the battle of the breakdowns; the real challenge is to ensure quality ball for yourself and poor ball for your opponents by forcing the opposition back at the collisions whether defending or carrying the ball. This is by far the final result determining factor in most matches.
Frankly, establishing forward momentum at the breakdowns is something that South Africans teams and coaches, for that matter, have only recently began to grasp and even though they now seems so understand the importance of it they are still in terms of execution way behind the rest of the big rugby playing nations like New Zealand, Australia, England, Wales and Ireland.
Peter Whipp’s playmaking ability was badly missed as the backline spluttered and strained unable to get the ball down the line with the back foot ball they were receiving; all the while getting demolished and forced back at the tackle area.
Worse, on the two occasions that New Zealand did ran the ball in orthodox fashion the soft-underbelly of the Springbok’s midfield defence was exposed. Joe Morgan sliced through without a hand being laid on him on one of these occasions after a fabulous reverse pass by Going which had Stofberg and Bayvel running in the wrong direction close to the scrum.
The try resulted from a scrum on the Springbok 22; Going moved right then threw a reverse pass to the left which put Joe Morgan bearing in the opposite direction in space. Going’s intitial move to the right pulled Bayvel and Stofberg in the wrong direction and Morgan after receiving the reverse pass chopped of his left foot to burst inside Ian Robertson and Boland Coetzee. He chopped again slightly infield and seeing it all opened up in front of him veered to the outside and sped past Morné du Plessis and then away from the cover defence to score the only try of the match.
I can still remember the Afrikaans radio commentator Gerhard Viviers baffled voice and words: “Hy hardloop eenvoudig deur! Die manne wou nog aan hom vat, toe vat niemand aan hom nie. Hy sien, maar hier is ‘n gaping so groot soos ‘n waenhuisdeur voor my, en daar trek hy en hy loop druk hom. En hier staan die manne nou agter die doelpale, kop onderstebo. Daardie drie het hulle nou werklik weggegee”.
Series of pictures illustrating the Joe Morgan try. In the top picture Morgan slips inside Ian Robertson. The second picture shows him passing Morné du Plessis while the third picture shows Morgan running away from Boland Coetzee. In the last picture he slides over for his try just left of the uprights.
Terry McLean summarised the match well with this paragraph:
By and large, the Springboks were overpowered in most phases. They suffered great unhappiness in the partnership of Ian Robertson and Johan Oosthuizen in the centres and, try as he might, Dawie Snyman made no impression as an international fullback.
Their backline attack was disjointed.
For all the vast weight supplied by the new boy Theuns Stofberg, John Williams, Moaner van Heerden, Rampie Stander, Derek van den Berg and, the later de Klerk, who among them aggregated more than 100 stones (635 kg), the forward attack wanted in authority. It was notably deficient in pace to the ball and power of tackle.
The ignominy of Dawie Snyman seemed to have no end. He was kicked to pieces by the unerring left boot of Doug Bruce and by those rolling tactical kicks and aerial punts of Sid Going that found Snyman out of position every time. The result was that Snyman (as these two pictures indicate) was caught in possession almost every time by the time he got to the ball.
It was a hard and intense match in which no quarter was asked or given. The picture shows Bryan Williams being boxed in by Boland Coetzee and Theuns Stofberg. Williams was carefully watched and didn’t score his usual try but did contribute with a massive try saving tackle on Ian Robertson resulting in Robertson’s pass -intended for Germishuys- pitching behind the long legged South African flyer waiting in the open.
1 con, 2 pen
Morné du Plessis (C)
Andy Leslie (C)
Moaner van Heerden
Derek van den Berg
* replaced Kevin de Klerk after 22 minutes. * Batty replaced by Bill Osborne after 54 minutes
The match official was Gert Bezuidenhout (Transvaal); Match attendance was 71 000.
In the All Black team Joe Morgan replaced Jaffray at inside centre, and Kit Fawcett (photo above) moved into the fullback spot in place of Duncan Robertson who didn’t produce a convincing performance as a No15 in the first test.
Two new caps Kevin Eveleigh and Brad Johnstone came into the forwards; Johnstone replaced Terry Tanner who the coaches was tentative to play on test level after losing 14 kg due to influenza; Eveleigh replaced Stewart who got injured in the match against the SA University team.
The Springbok team who played in this test. A now fit Dawie Snyman regainded the full-back berth with Ian Robertson returning to the centre position. Chris Pope took over from Edrich Krantz who had a shocker for the Universities team. In the forwards Theuns Stofberg replaced 33 year old Jan Ellis who was denied the opportunity of breaking the South African record of 38 tests he shared with Frik du Preez. The criticism against this team was extreme and particular the fact that the chosen front row was overshadowed by the All Blacks in the first test. The omission of Peter Whipp from the test side was also hotly debated and there was talk that one of the selectors was so unhappy about it that he threatened to resign.
The story of the second test; the South African inside backs getting slaughtered while trying to run with the ball. This picture shows Ian Robertson getting tackled in process of slinging a wild pass to his outside backs. The Rhodesian was not able to reproduce his form of the first test. The backline looked unorganized and Robertson was nowhere when Morgan ran through for his try. It was therefore no surprise when he lost his place for the third test. What was a surprise is the fact that Dawie Snyman was kept in the team as fullback after a shocking performance while Robertson had an excellent game in that position in the first test.
Run of play
Going penalty, 21 m.
Bosch penalty, 38 m.
Going penalty, 27 m.
Morgan try, Going convert.
Bosch penalty, 23 m.
Bosch penalty, 51 m.
Bruce drop goal.
Bosch missed penalty shots from 52 and 27 meters. Going, in the second half, missed penalties from 42 and 36 meters. Bruce missed his first attempt at a drop goal in the first half.