3 June 1972 – South Africa 9 / England 18
I select this test as the most shocking not for the fact that there was shocking incidents, fighting or poor rugby but because the result was so unexpected and shocking for the South African public.
South Africa was on top of the rugby world going into this one off test match. The Springboks come off a series won against the touring 1970 All Blacks and an unbeaten tour through Australia in 1971. In spite of the fact that some of the big stars like Frik du Preez, Hannes Marais, Dawie de Villiers, Piet Visagie, Ian McCallum and Mannetjies Roux retired there was still enough experience left for South Africa to go into this test with a great amount of confidence. The England team in contrast was full of unknown players (that is of course unknown to most South Africans at the time).
The teams were:
Pens Snyman 3
Pens Doble 4
New caps in the Springbok team were Ray Carlson, Piet du Plessis and Niek Bezuidenhout. Dawie Snyman was also playing in his first test but was not new to the Springbok enviroment having been one of the Springbok tourist to Australia in 1971.
Piet du Plessis one of the new caps who never again played for South Africa after this shocking defeat. Du Plessis was picked above Johan Spies -who were on the bench- that played with distinction against the 1970 All Blacks.
Ray Carlson from Border was another new cap who played in his first and last test
Tonie Roux the NTVL fullback was picked on centre above an established centre like Piet Cronje who made a big impression on the 1970 All Blacks and who was a great success on the 1971 tour.
The big debate before the test was who are going to take over as Springbok captain after Hannes Marais retired. Marais so by the way came out of retirement to lead the Springboks again against the 1974 Brtish Lions and on a short tour through France at the end of 1974. However, in 1972 it was between Jan Ellis and Piet Greyling both being the captains of their respective provinces and the two most experienced campaigners in the team. Whether Jan Ellis was really considered as captain I don’t know but in my immediate circle in 1972 the talk was Jan should be captain.
Piet Greyling a true Springbok legend who was the captain in this test.
England took the Springboks on up front and dominated the set piece and the breakdowns and South Africa with Jan Ellis in the front could not breach their defensive line. I can still remember listening to Gerard Viviers going ballistic on air as Jan charged, sidestepped, batterrammed, and smashed up against the English defenisve line. Jan plunged over the line a couple of times but was held up and carried back to the nations shocked surprise and stunned disbelief as time run out on the big clock at Ellispark.
Jan Ellis charging at the English with Piston van Wyk next to him and Albie Bates in the background. No 2 in the whte jersey was the England captain John Pullin.
The term breakdowns was not common at the time but I can remember how we got smashed and forced back at the tackle area and how England seemed to have little trouble in getting forward acendency and eventully scoring the only try after punching a few holes with their forwards before moving the ball wide for Morley on the wing to score. I was only 10 years old and TV didn’t exist in SA at the time but can vividly remember the agitated body movements, twitching and turning in the room while we listened in stunned disbelief how England took the ball up and just kept going and going with it untill they scored.
Dawie Snyman on flyhalf was a disaster and Joggie Viljoen as well as Piet du Plessis, Joggie Jansen, Piet Greyling, Ray Carlson and Albie Bates never again played for South Africa after this test.
Dawie Snyamn scored all South Africa's points with three penalties but did not play well on flyhalf.
It was a shocker indeed and South African rugby was brought back to earth in no uncertain terms. We didn’t know it at the time but Springbok rugby was in for an even bigger wake-up call because in 1974 the wheels really came off when the British Lions of Willie John McBride toured unbeated through South Africa.