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First Test, July 25, 1970

Tension was unbearable, in both camps during the last few days leading up to the first test. Team selection and possible game plan/strategies of the respective teams, were the topics raised in the media and the reason why practice sessions were keenly attended and closely followed. Both teams went out of their way to keep the above mentioned secret. Late announcement of teams; nothing practice sessions; tactical sessions behind closed doors; early morning sessions at unannounced training venues was standard practice. Gabriel David expresses himself as follows:

If there’s any more secrecy about this first rugby test then they had beter get James Bond to referee the match. The “bokkies” sneaked behind prison bars on Wednesday to brush up on their tactical ploys and yesterday coach Ivan Vodanovich had his boys out of the hotel just after dawn had broken. The destination was not announced, but it is known that several new attacking moves were studied and practiced.

New Zealand selected an experienced team and Bryan Williams –selected on merit- was the only new test cap in the team; Cottrell's form thus far on tour got him selected on no 10 ahead of incumbent flyhalf Earle Kirton, Tom Lister was selected on the flank above Alan Sutherland. The New Zealand side for this test can be seen here

The Springbok selectors (Avril Malan, Flappie Lochner, Daan Swiegers, Johan Claassen and Ian Kirkpatrick) photographed at the Springbok trials. It was during this trials that players like Albie Bates, Johan Spies, Piston van Wyk, Ian McCallum and Joggie Jansen played themselves into the test side. This was a time when it was difficult for a young player to get into the Springbok team due to a policy of sticking with experience that developed after the 1965 disasterous tour to New Zealand (see the article by Alex Versey which feature as part of the post about the third test).

The Springbok team had quite a few new faces in comparison with the players / teams that played as recently as 7 months ago in the test matches on the end year tour to the UK. Ian McCallum played in his first test at No 15 in place of HO de Villiers who recently retired; Joggie Jansen was brought on centre above players like JP van der Merwe, Eben Olivier Tonie Roux who played in test matches during the 69/70 end year tour. Tiny Neethling –not his first test- was selected above the experienced Mof Myburg with Albie Bates at No 8 in place of Tommy Bedford and Johan Spies at lock above Sakkie de Klerk.   

The Springbok team for the first test against the 1970 All Blacks. 

The Springbok reserves for the first two tests

With 17 consecutive test victories and the poor performances of the Springboks during the 69/70 end year tour still fresh in the memories the All Blacks was by far the favourites - even among the South African public and media- to win this test. Ron Burk, manager of the AB, openly set the odds in the media at 60:40 in favour of an All Blacks victory; a remark which was considered as a little inconsiderate and lacking in tact by the rest of the team.

Chris Greyvenstein in his book Springbok saga put it like this when he writes about the general perceptions regarding the Springbok’s chances in the first test:

The All Blacks' magnificent performances against the provincial opposition and their unbeaten record stretching over five years, all helped to build them into giants surrounded by an aura of almost mystical invincibility and hardly any hope was held out for the Springboks who had fared so poorly on the demo-plagued tour to Britain.

South Africa 17, New Zealand 6.

The following paragraph by Gabriel David summarizes the general expectation of the kiwi media at the start of the test and the change in perceptions as the test progressed:

My companion (on the pavilion) was none other than AC (Ace) Parker, South Africa’s most celebrated and respected rugby writer and author. We exchanged warm greetings and he made what I thought a strange comment.

He said with an air of a man who knew what he was talking about “You will lose this test and win the other three!” I mumbled a polite answer and privately thought that dear old Ace was losing his touch. Not that wily character, however, for I turned to him after 10 minutes of the match acknowledged” “Ace, how do you always do it?”

David mentions four aspects which in his opinion was key to the Springbok’s victory;

The AB's totally underestimated the Springbok flankers and No. 8 and thought they would be too loose to combat the disciplined drive of the All Black forwards. The Springboks aggression and control at the breakdowns and the AB's lack of structure in that department, he thought greatly determined the final outcome.  

Jan and Piet under a blanket (photo not taken against the AB but in a test against the French in 1971).

About the forwards play David made the following observations: was the South African forwards who launched the subsidiary thrust at the breakdowns. Our loose men treated halfback De Villiers and flyhalf Visagie as though both had the plague and scarcely went near them.

The lineout duel was lost for the first time on the tour, although the dependable McLeod won the tight head contest, 4-1. Hopkinson was badly beaten at no 2 in the lineout by the new boy Spies. Strahan played extremely well but was no match for the incomparable Du Preez as the key man in the lineouts.

Lister was one New Zealand forward who incorporated some efficiency into his game but Kirkpatrick was strangely subdued. Lochore played a fine captain’s game to rally the forwards. 

A concerned looking Going trying to get hold of Piet Visgaie in process of launching one of his precise tactical kicks.

  • De Villiers and Visagie's precise and clinical play at 9 and 10 and especially Visagie's tactical kicking he thought was decisive.

Terry McLean writes:

Tactical planning and teamwork were the main ingredients of this Springbok victory whereas New Zealand neglected their patterned football in pursuance of the 15-man attacking game. 

Piet Greyling kicking through with Dawie de Villiers chasing to score the Springboks first try.

Only three minutes had elapsed when the All Blacks won a scrum inside their 25 but, as Laidlaw went back to gather the ball, he was bustled and the ball went loose. Greyling, coming through quickly got his foot to the ball and kicked it through to the All Black line. In the chase for the ball, de Villiers narrowly beat Wayne Cottrell to the touchdown and scored South Africa’s first points, near the left hand corner.

Click here to listen to Afrikaans radio commentator describing the first Springbok try by Dawie de Villiers.

Footage of De Villiers’s try can be seen here.

  • The Springbok’s defence and especially the infamous tackle by Frik du Preez on Laidlaw and Joggie Jansen’s crash tackle on Cottrell determined to a great extent the result of this test.

The tackle on Laidlaw early in the game and his subsequent concussion thereafter, he thought, completely disrupted the All Blacks and was the reason why they couldn’t get into any sort of pattern. The first try by Dawie de Villiers, within 4 minutes after onset, was also a direct result of Laidlaw's concussion.

He writes as follows about the infamous tackle by Frik du Preez and Albie Bates on Chris Laidlaw:

A knock early in the match concussed halfback Laidlaw and it was in utter disbelief that we watched him fumble for the ball, allow it to lie at the back of the scrum and just let it run between his legs. When he did instinctively grab it he ran straight into attacking forwards when he had all the time in the world to kick for touch.

He played in a dazed state for 42 minutes of the match during which time 12 points had been recorded alongside the name of South Africa and a miserable blob was the undistinguished mark by New Zealand.

There can be no doubt that the concussed state of Laidlaw had an important bearing on the results but there is no question that the All Blacks played badly, very badly at times just as South Africa played tremendous rugby for the whole 80 minutes. 

The 1970 sport photo of the year.

About Joggie Jansen's crash tackle on Cottrell he wrote the following:

One of Jansen's crash tackles laid Cottrell almost unconscious and the onslaught of the dedicated home side had the All Blacks badly rattled.

Visagie maintained his tactical kicking and in the 8th minute South Africa won a scrum midway between the New Zealand goal line and 25.

De Villiers sent a long pass to Visagie who propped beautifully and sent a magnificent 30-yard left-footed drop kick between the posts. 

A concerned Joggie Jansen trying to help a gutted Wayne Cottrell just after Jansen flattened him with a crash tackle.

Greyvenstein-Springbok saga - also referred to Joggie Jansen’s crash tackle:

All Black flyhalf Wayne Cottrell received from a set scrum and, moving to the blind side, he tried to probe for an opening. As he was about to pass, when the big Free Stater hit him squarely with a shoulder-first tackle in the midriff and Cottrell was flattened as effectively as if he had been run over by a truck.

Cottrell was never the same again and the 22-year-old Joachim Scholtz (Joggie) Jansen went on to terrorize the All Blacks in the tradition of Jimmy White and Rijk van Schoor.

Click here to listen to Gerhard Viviers describing the famous Joggie Jansen tackle on Wayne Cottrell.

  • Finally, the precise place kicking by Ian McCallum at critical times in the game was also crucial with regard to the final outcome of this test match, according to Gabriel David.

McCallum will wear the distinctive green jersey for some time. He never faltered under high kicks and his skill in finding the uprights with long, accurate kicks did much to establish the results. That 50-yard penalty in the 35thth minute to give his side a 12-0 lead was the straw that broke the camel's back. 

Going replaced Laidlaw after approximately 42 minutes with immediate impact. Going's short powerful probes from behind the scrum got the NZ pack on the front foot; Going was also instrumental in Bryan Williams try. David describes this series of events:

.... South Africa continued to dominate until Laidlaw finally went off and was replaced by Going. It was a long period, however, before Going came on the field and an understandably impatient coach Ivan Vodanovich fretted and fumed when the doctor carried out one of the most comprehensive examinations any injured rugby player has ever endured.

Six minutes at least elapsed before the little North Aucklander came on the field and set about changing the disastrous patterns that were plunging New Zealand to defeat. With the alertness and zip that characterized his match-winning performances behind previous New Zealand packs, the nuggety little Maori gave the All Blacks new hope as he set up new attacking dynamite with brilliant bursts from the base of the scrum. 

Eight minutes after Syd Going came on he broke to the open side of a scrum, crossed the halfway line as he slipped through a gap and then threw a one-handed pass to Bryan Williams. Williams accelerated and sped round Sid Nomis. He continued another 15 yards before being confronted by a determined Ian McCallum. He eluded McCallum with a brilliant step of his left foot, straightend-up and was over in the corner; suddenly the score was 12-6 and NZ back in the game.

The Bryan Williams try can be seen here.

Bryan Williams was absolutely brilliant and the try he scored was pure artistry; he sped down the left sideline and in-and-out with such devastating speed between three defenders that they fell over each other and literally sat on the ground afterwards staring at each other with perplexed facial expressions.

Four minutes later it was all but over when a alert Sid Nomis intercepted a high-flying pass by Lochore, and raced through on the wave of a euphoric home ground and Gerhard Viviers' almost hysterical shouting SIDDIE, SIDDIE, SIDDIE over the radio as Nomis ran from the All Blacks 10 meter line to score just next of the upright for the final points of the match.

Listen here to Gerhard Viviers going Siddie, Siddie Siddie as he describes the Syd Nomis intercept try.

These two photograps shows Syd Nomis scoring the intercept try that sealed the match for South Africa.

Footage of the Sid Nomis interception can be see by clicking on this link.

Terry McLean, in his book "Battling the boks” writes:

The South African forwards were balls of fire. De Villiers was galvanized, scarcely able to stand still for a moment. The team was wound up to a state of total dedication. In the early movements, the players took off like projectiles.

For New Zealand troubles began in the lineout, where Hopkinson and Smith at the short end were beaten by Neethling and Spies, and Strahan in the main catching position at 5 were beaten by Du Preez. The trouble continued in the open, where Bates, Greyling and Ellis, but especially Bates, were first to the ball, first to the man, first in most things. The poor quality of the All Black forward play was shattering.

One saluted the Springboks, especially Bates, who was truly magnificent; du Preez made fine catches; Neethling, who was a considerable nuisance at the front of the line; de Villiers, whose leadership was electrifying; Visagie who kicked with terrifying exactitude; Jansen, who tackled in the manner of such defensive giants as Jackie Matthews and Rijk van Schoor; and McCallum who fielded expertly, kicked accurately, ran smartly and more than salvaged a reputation which might have been lost by the uncertainty of his defence as Williams ran at him.

See highlights of the enire test here.