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First test - 31 July 1965

It was a test of missed opportunities. A test of controversy. A test almost won, against all odds, by South Africa.

True to form Athletic Park in Wellington was a swamp on test day. The weather was heavy and overcast; the field was a mud bath after two days of sustained rain; a gale force, 50 mile per hour cold southern wind, was blowing to top it off. The Springboks -after a series defeat in Australia and having already one lost of their 8 tour matches in New Zealand- were given no change to win. Five of the Springboks in the test side played in the 1960 series against the All Blacks in South Africa, namely Lionel Wilson, John Gainsford, Keith Oxlee, Lofty Nel, and Abe Malan. 

Sakkie van Zyl was appointed captain of the forwards (vice captain) ahead of Abe Malan (former Springbok captain) who only managed to get into the test side after Don Walton the first choice hooker injured his hamstring during a practice run two days before the test. 

Sakkie van Zyl

4 tests (1965)

1.85m, 99.8 kg

Played in 14 games including all four tests during the 1965 tour.

McLean on Sakkie van Zyl:

He tried for years and years to win a Springbok cap and had always been a runner-up, never the victor. At the time of leading Orange Free State to a victory over the touring Welshmen in 1964, he was ready to retire. Danie Craven interposed. He persuaded Sakkie to play for one more year. Now, at last, Sakkie is one of the immortals who have worn the emblem of the bouncing buck in an international.

Deep down, he was said to have a fiery temper, but you would have to dig deep to find this, for he had a natural charm and a courtesy or sportsmanship which was extremely attractive. Everyone felt extremely delighted when the Tour Committee, maintained him as vice-captain for the first test, even after an injury had brought Malan, the normal forward leader, back to the side. Sakkie was that sort of bloke, everyone was usually on his side.

From a footballing point of view, van Zyl had two points of commendation, he chased harder and more conscientiously than many of his companions and he could dribble with a skill to match the very best of the old-timers. His support play in the lineout was decidedly not of the standard an All Black selector would set for an internationally.

There was good news for Tommy Bedford, a medical follow-up examination showed that his scaphoid bone had healed completely; there was no more sign of the fracture. Bedford did not play again on tour. 

Truter, Nomis and Bedford studying a x-ray of Tommy's wrist.

The All Blacks selected no newcomers in their original team to play in this first test but injuries to Malcolm Dick and Waka Nathan opened the door for rookie Bill Birtwistle on the right wing and the return of Dick Conway (No. 6) which last played test rugby in 1960. Wilson Whineray was brought back to captain the side after he only played club rugby in 1964. Whineray, Conway, Colin Meads and Tremain all played for the All Blacks in the 1960 series against South Africa. Brain Lochore - destined to captain the 1970 All Blacks touring to South Africa- was on no 8 and Chris Laidlaw who would also tour to South Africa in 1970 was on scrumhalf. Colin Meads and his brother Stan was on lock for the All Blacks. The New Zealand side for this test can be seen here. 

All Blacks 6 / South Africa 3

De Villiers won the toss and decided to play against the wind in the first half. With the wind from behind the All Blacks were on the attack from kick-off. After only 5 minutes of play Laidlaw fed Murdock (No. 10) on the blindside after a scrum on the Springboks goal line. Willament slipped into the line from fullback to create the man over and Birtwistle darted over to score in the corner. Willament missed with the conversion.

The All Black forwards were in total control from the beginning and with the wind from behind most of the game took place in the Springboks half of the field. Gainsford and Roux's defence was, however, rock solid. Gainsford in particular had the All Blacks centres at sixes and sevens with the quality and vigour of his tackling. McLean writes as follows about Gainsford role in this match:

If New Zealand had its heroes, so, too, did South Arica. Greatest by far was Gainsford. All attacks by the New Zealand backs were thwarted by the stupendous ferocity of his tackling. When the All Blacks played to the right, it was Collins who was stopped by this big, powerful man racing in at maximum speed. To the left, it was Rangi who stood the charge. The timing was perfect, the stopping power phenomenal.

All the way through the tour till this stage, Gainsford had not quite measured up to his reputation, though his ability was patent. His answers to the challenge now exemplified the value of experience. Once, after a tackle, he stayed down and flopped about in agony from a twist of the shoulder. The hurt look serious. In no time, he was up and crashing into men as vigorously as before. If the Springboks had happened to win this game, it could have been said that Gainsford's deadly tackling was the simple cause of victory. 

John Leslie Gainsford

33 tests (1960-1967); 8 tries.

1.83m; 81.6 kg

Played in 16 matches (including all 4 tests) in NZ and 5 matches (including the two tests) in Australia during the 1965 tour.

He scored 6 tries (2 test tries) in NZ and 4 tries (1 test try) on the Australia leg of the tour.

Terry McLean: John Gainsford celebrated his feat of becoming the most capped Springbok in history by scoring two incredibly brilliant tries. This was in the third test with the All Blacks. He played too, in the fourth test, which gave him 30 caps in all since 1960 –a fabulous performance for a man who could have been accused, rightly enough, for being one of Fortune’s darlings. He was brought up in comfort, he had married well, and he and a fellow-Springbok, Dave Stewart, were partners in a prosperous sportsgoods business in Cape Town of which the celebrated Springbok forward Jan Pickard, was a sleeping partner. These gifts could have slackened Gainsford’s interest in Rugby if it had not been that he had also been equipped with a restless, ambitious, somewhat arrogant and endlessly driving mind.

When the tour began it was said he was over the hill. So he was –when the match was just another match no one would look up in the record books. When the chips were down, when the honour of South Africa was involved, Gainsford was so far short of the crest of his hill that he could have been taken for a hungrily ambitious youngster crawling up the first precipitous slopes. He had the quality of great sportsmen, ruthless drive, the subjection of mind to the immediate object, which is the killer instinct.

Technically, he had his limitations –his punting with the left foot was lamentable, he “chopped” back infield instead of using the outside break- but even with them, he was still a great centre. He played rugby with only one idea, to win, and nothing impressed him more about rugby men in New Zealand than that this simple ambition was also their principal interest in the game.

For their part, New Zealand could not admire him enough. He was their ilk, hard, strong, ruthless, tough –in short, the highest compliment, a footbaler's fotballer.

John Gainsford by Dr Craven: John played for False Bay initially, but it wasn't until he joined Villagers that he developed the devastating break which became a hall mark of his play.

It was from his left foot that he used to break inwards then straighten out, Bog and strong; a man who would give his life 

to play for the Springboks. When he played you could see the dtermination written all over his face.

He scored some unforgettable tries, particularly the two against the All Blacks at Christchurch in 1965. John was, and still is, an outspoken man. A man's man: one who never apologised for his belief that rugby was played to be won.

In the 10th minute Willament failed with a drop kick and shortly thereafter with a penalty. Despite forward dominance and spending most of the half in the Springboks half the All Blacks were unable to put any more points on the scoreboard, until just before halftime.

The second try started when Conway picked up a ball thrown to the back of the lineout and charged for the line. It looked as if he scored when he was forced to the ground by the defenders on the Springboks goal line. The referee, however, decided he fell short and from the ensuing scrum, the All Blacks attempt to repeat the move which produced the earlier try. This time de Villiers saw it coming and he tackled Willimant when he joined the backline; the ball spilled forward in the tackle. Tremain (No. 7) was first to gather the ball and plunged over the Springboks try line near the right hand corner. Despite the fact that Willament clearly knocked the ball forward and that Tremain was in an offside position when he played the ball the try was awarded by referee Pat Murphy. Willament was unsuccessful with the conversion and the All Blacks went into halftime with a slender 6-0 lead. 

Tremain clutches the ball inside the Springboks in-goal-area while referee Pat Murphy confirms the try. Brynard, McLeod and Malan looked on in total astonishment; Malan appears to be on the verge of objecting. 

With the wind from behind the Springboks were able to start put pressure on the All Blacks in the second half; seven minutes into the second half Oxlee landed a drop kick following a five yard scrum right in front of the New Zealand posts.

He missed a further attempt after 16 minutes and with a third attempt after 22 minutes. The Springboks were camping in the New Zealand half of the field but the All Black pack, playing into the gale, was outstanding limiting the Springbok opportunities and the Springbok backline saw very little ball. Naude was short with a long penalty kick and Roux knocked a pass from Ellis with a clear run to the goal line. 

Keith Oxlee in first test

The Springboks looked dangerous whenever the ball went to the backline but the All Black forwards were so much in control that Conway (No. 6) was despatched to the back as a second fullback to help with the defence. It was Conway who dragged Brynard just short of the New Zealand goal line over the sideline to prevent a certain try after a brilliant line break by Gainsford. 

Keith Oxlee in first test

The Springboks looked dangerous whenever the ball went to the backline but the All Black forwards were so much in control that Conway (No. 6) was despatched to the back as a second fullback to help with the defence. It was Conway who dragged Brynard just short of the New Zealand goal line over the sideline to prevent a certain try after a brilliant line break by Gainsford.I'm a paragraph. Click oance to begin entering your own content. You can change my font, size, line height, color and more by highlighting part of me and selecting the options from the toolbar.

Conway with the blond hair providing the man extra to stop Brynard just short of the All Black goal line. Click on the link to see footage of this incident.

Malan (right) and De Villiers (left) trying to topple “Pinetree” Meads in the first test.

In the final minutes with the Springboks on the attack, Gray and Whineray brought the crowd to their feet with spontaneous and sustained applause when they combined in a burst upfield from a line-out gaining 50 meters before being stopped. It was a fitting end to a match dominated and won by New Zealand forward superiority; the strength, structure and cohesiveness of the New Zealand pack were the difference between the two sides. 

Ken Gray making ready to pass to Whineray -with de Villiers hanging on for dear life- after he burst through the last lineout of the match -in the All Blacks 25 yard area- to initiate a 50 meter charge down field which brought the crowd to their feet with spontaneous and sustained applause. 

Whineray with Colin Meads next to him at the end the a 50 meter charge started by Ken Gray in the final secnds of the match. Whineray was bundled into touch shortly here after to bring an end to the first test. 

See this movement -in the clip above- which too a large axtend defined the match.

The general feeling -despite the controversy regarding Tremain's try- was that New Zealand were the better team and deserved winners.

Terry McLean in his book "The bok busters" ends his piece on this test as follows:

And there, my masters, was the ball game. It was fought in almost the worst conditions and yet it had the trill and violence and terror, of melodrama. For Birtwistle there was for the glimpse of heaven when he ran in his try. For Laidlaw, the praise was bounteous, for this was a magnificent display of courage, coolness and, most conspicuously, confidence. Gray's catches at No. 2; Whineray's drives with him; Stanley Meads's overpowering of du Preez; Lochore's expert catching at the back; Tremain's opening phase; all were superb parts of the instrument Whineray used to probe at the Springboks.