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OFS and Rhodesia

Bloemfontein was the next stop where almost everyone ceased their daily activities and went to watch the arrival of the AB's. Gabriel David sums it up in the following paragraph:

There may have well have been one or two people working in Bloemfontein when the All Blacks arrived just after 10:30 a.m. but there wouldn’t have been more than three! There was an awed silence from about 500 people at the airport but the welcome to the All Blacks as they drove through the streets of this city of 100,000 people were almost unbelievable.

Roads, footpaths and building were jammed with waving and cheering Orange Free Staters. There must have been at least 50,000 out in the sun to greet the tourists.

Medicine is of course one of the major features of KOVSIES university; Colin Meads' arm was consequently promptly examined by an orthopaedic surgeon as a courtesy gesture. The good news was it was a clean break and arm aligned well and there was already sign of bone repair. The bad news was that it would be a further two months before Meads would be playing rugby again.

The All Black team as well as the New Zealand media was treated like royalty by OFS rugby union and no stone was left untouched to meet whatever request they had.

Rumours and a general hustle and bustle were apparent among journalists when Ron Burk (AB manager) disappeared for a few days. Curiosity was finally satisfied with the disclosure that Burk, Jannie Le Roux (TRU president) and Louis Luyt (fertilizer millionaire) travelled in Luyt’s private jet to Lourenco Marques. What exactly they were doing in LM and the reason for the excursion was never revealed. Arrangements behind closed doors and secretive modus operandi was clearly a popular way of getting things done in the seventies because shortly after it leaked that All Black jerseys and equipment for the tour were sent to Nellie Smith 10 months before the team actually left NZ for South Africa. Nellie stored the equipment in Bloemfontein.

It was big news that Colin Meads had a training session on the morning of the match against Free State. A surgeon from Christchurch took a look at his Bloemfontein x-rays and advised that he should take the plaster off and start exercising as that would allow him to return to the field within two weeks. Influenced by this Meads went for training run which the arm handled remarkably well and Meads was now seeking a second opinion on whether he should return to serious weight bearing training or not.

All Blacks 30 / OVS 12

The NZ test side rendered a disappointingly poor display against OFS (generally regarded as weak). South Africans know that the Free State is not an easy nut to crack, in Bloemfontein. The AB camp, however, walked out of the game with a feeling of discontent and a general feeling that the AB played rather poorly. The score was 6 all at halftime with the AB's that wasted quite a few try scoring opportunities due to poor handling and decision making.

Gabriel David writes:

...this shadow All Black test side did not impress in beating an extremely weak Orange Free State side. The first half was embarrassing as the All Blacks committed every indiscretion and simple error in the rugby manual. The 6-6 score (at halftime) reflected a miserable 40 minutes in which the All Blacks tossed away innumerable opportunities because they neglected the basic skills.

The OFS team for the day included quite a few future Springboks while Sakkie van Zyl the loose-head prop-forward played for the 1965 Springboks against the All Blacks in all four the test matches; he was also destined to be the coach of the 1976 OFS team who would win the Currie Cub for the first time in OFS rugby history.

Sakkie van Zyl in action against the 1970 All Blacks.

It was not a weak team maybe inexperienced but there were no lack of talent. The team can be seen below.

Jan Schlebusch who played on the centre with Joggie Jansen for OFS against the 1970 All Blacks. Schlebush earned his Springbok colours in 1974; he played 3 tests namely the 3rd and 4th test against the 1974 lions and 1 test against the 1975 French team touring South Africa.

Jan Schlebusch trying to tackle Ian Kirkpatrick in the Free State All Black encounter. Too many such high tackles cost Free State the match. In the background is Piet Strydom.

Bryan Williams had a bad day; Syd Going an even worse day; while no 10 for the day Kirton had a nightmare. Leon Vogel went around Bryan Williams for an outstanding try; Kirton's tactical kicking was weak and useless; Going's general shape was a concern. 

Leon Vogel scored a brilliant try against the All Black by running around Bryan Williams. Top picture show Vogel scoring his try and bottom picture show him being congratulated by his team mates. Vogel became a Springbok in 1974 in a bizarre way. During the 2nd test against the 74 British Lions, Dawie Snyman replaced an injured Ian McCallum in the 69th minute. Six minutes later (in the 75th minute) Snyman also got hurt and left the field to be replaced by Vogel. Leon Vogel therefore find himself today in the unique situation that he received his Springbok cap by playing test rugby for only 5 minutes after going on the field as a substitute for a substitute.

Here is what Terry McLean has to say about individual performances in the OFS match:

The OFS captain Corrie van Zyl, a tall, competent lineout man, was certainly one of the finest opposing forwards of the tour and in the backline Jansen, a fateful figure in the four tests, and Vogel, a superb wing, commanded admiration.

Jansen made only one or two runs, but his sidestepping was nimble. Williams hung off a moment, waiting to put himself in a better position to tackle Vogel. To his horror – “I won’t sleep tonight,” he said- he discovered that Vogel was a yard, perhaps even two yards, faster than he looked.

As the brilliant try was scored, you found yourself saying: “Speed. There it is. Nothing will ever beat speed.”

Lost upon the tour committee was the significance of the achievement of Cottrell and Thorne in largely containing Jansen. 

Fergie McCormick was for both Gabriel David and Terry McLean the man of the match; he scored a total of 21 points in the match and had a hand in all the AB tries.

An experiment with Alan Sutherland on lock did not work. Graeme Thorne's footwork and overall performance on centre impressed while Cottrell showed some innovative touches on inside centre.

The field was soft and wet probably well watered by the Bloemfonteiners and the AB complained after the game that the clay got stuck in the studs of their boots diminishing traction hampering both scrummaging and backline play.

Thorne, Cottrell, Going, and McCormick scored tries for the AB. McCormick converted three of those four tries and was successful with four penalties. Vogel scored for OFS and Van der Merwe on No 10 added three penalties. 

In the two pictures abvove the tries scored by Going and McCormick

The All Black team for this match can be seen here.

All Blacks27 / Rhodesia, 14

Victoria Falls was the AB's next stop, where a day was spent. Terry McLean writes:

Victoria Falls was surely the most wonderful natural phenomenon in the entire world. Even when you stood on Danger point, maybe 100 yards from the main fall, and watched the stupendous leap of waters to the depths 345 feet below, the place didn’t seem quite possible; it was too much like a cinematic invention.

“The Smoke That Thunders” they call it –or, at least, that’s what the natives were calling it when Dr Livingstone arrived and took his first gink at it – and so superbly descriptive is this that it’s a pity the name didn’t stick and let old Victoria have her party with the Cross and the Australian State and various other remembrances.   

Photo of the Victoria Falls

Strangely enough, the AB's arrival in Salisbury did not ellicit a great deal of interest. Approximately 100 people watched rather passively at the airport when the All Blacks arrived. Kiwi impressions and comments about Salisbury can be summarized with the following two qoutes by David and McLean:

This bright and thriving capital of Rhodesia has a contented atmosphere. If it has been hit by sanctions then one suggests New Zealand should make UDI immediately. I haven’t seen so much of such quality in shops, while the hotel bars are stocked with every conceivable brand of liquor. The people have an affluent look but one notices that there are still non-white beggars in the streets.

The All Blacks are being treated royally but it appears that the Rhodesian Rugby Union has little time for the touring press. Cabling facilities have not been installed at the ground and only some strong words of protest produced tickets for the match. 

Salisbury in 1970.

Rhodesia was a most enjoyable and rewarding experience for the All Blacks and made overall a good impression on the team. In Short, Victoria Falls with those Falls and Salisbury with its broad avenues and brilliant blooms, the two places with that climate that must rank with the finest in the world, seemed to the rugged citizens of rugby to be among the most delectable places they have ever seen, says McLean in his book Battling the Boks.   

Terry McLean and Gabriel David dinned with Andy MacDonald (on the photo above) the Rhodesian Springbok prop-forward who played in all four the tests against the All Black in 1965.

Here is what McLean writes about MacDonald: Andy had come from his farm in Zambia to meet with Meads and Lochore and other old hands. We all gazed at him in awe because this was the man who a couple of years before had survived an encounter with a lion. He had gone shooting with native bearers and wounded a lion. He then committed, according to African lore, the absolute folly of trailing the beast. As he came upon it, his attention was monetarily distracted when one of the boys took off at high port. The lion clawed him as it knocked him down and, all told, Andy’s body needed 480 stitches when he was taken to hospital. Survival was incredible enough. The great drama was that while MacDonald’s head was actually in the lion’s mouth, he still had the presence of mind to reach in his hand to grab the tongue. He had his thumb and one finger left of that hand, the others are stumps. It was while he was in this position, helpless, poised on the brink of old inevitable eternity if the lion tighten its jaws that the greatest drama of all occurred. All of a sudden the lion relaxed its hold. It stood and moved eight yards from him. It stood again and then it dropped dead.

Tension was clearly mounting in the AB camp, with the first test at Loftus Versfeld only three days away. A touch rugby warm-up game resulted in harsh words (between Kirton and Lochore) when Kirton decided to go on his own with Lochore in space next to him.

Negative tactics - product of an attempt by Rhodesia to keep the score as low as possible rather than trying to win- resulted in a disappointing match, before a crowd of approximately 20, 000. Late tackling, jersey pulling, obstruction and blatant offside play strained the flow of the game and disrupted and frustrated the AB. 

Wayne Cottrell leaps away from Lloyd-Evans, on the ground and Preston Robertson, while McRae squeezes up his face in agony.

The All Black selectors used the game to get clarity on some combinations with an eye on the team for the first test.

Wylie and Sutherland were weighed against each other; Sutherland was an impressive runner with the ball but had a tendency to go that yard to far; resulting in turnover ball. Wylie was a "fetcher '; Lochore on No 8 and the Captain was a certain choice for the test which meant that Sutherland would have to be included on the flank or as a lock forward. Kirkpatrick was the other incumbent on flank and was like Sutherland a strong runner with the ball. Sutherland has been tried on the lock against OFS and on the flank against Eastern Transvaal both matches in which the All Black did not play particularly well.

In this match Sutherland, Wylie and Holmes were used as loose forward trio and the kiwi rugby media were especially keen to see the how Sutherland would weigh-up against Wylie as Lochore, Kirkpatrick and Wylie were regarded as the most probable loose trio combo for the first test. 

Alan Sutherland in a Rhodesia jersey; after the 1976 All Black tour Sutherland stayed behind in Rhodesia and in 1977 and played for them as captain in the Currie Cup series.

The Taranaki lock Smit played so well that he came out as favourite for the place of injured Collin Meads on the lock while Hopkinson (the No 1 prop-forward) almost played himself out of the test team with unnecessary frustration induced rough play. Cottrell had a solid game on 10 while Thorne impressed again as play maker in the backline. Gabriel David had the following to say about Thorne:

The try of the match... it was Thorne again who brought the crowd to its feet. He captured a rolling ball inside his half and streaked down the sideline. Deceiving the opposition with a one-handed dummy, he carried on with only a few yards separating him from the sideline.

Eventually halted a few inches short he managed to get rid of the ball. Holmes was in full flight and went into a dive to take the ball on the tips of his fingers, complete the dive and score the try.

McLean made the following observations about the Rhodesian team:

The Rhodesians fielded two excellent players in the scrumhalf Alexander, undoubtedly one of the best on tour, and flyhalf Martin, who at twenty-five had already played a great deal of provincial rugby as well as against tams from France, Australia and the British Isles.

Their Captain, Mundell, conceded only one head to McLeod, which was good going; Steward, a huge lock of nearly 17 stone –he was only twenty- barged about handily enough; Lloyds-Evans as a centre had inherited not a few of the tricks that come so easily to the Welsh; Preston Robertson, who had twelve games for Western Province while playing for the University of Cape Town and Villagers, was a lively loose-forward who would have been better if he had been fit enough to be lively more often.

Roberson, Varkevisser and Murphy were considerable nuisance at the back of the lineout, from which point New Zealand, with better control, could have hoped to develop many attacks. 

Ian Roberson (above) played on the fullback for Rhodesia. Robertson was destined to become a Springbok in 1974 touring to France. He also played in three of the four tests against the 1976 All Blacks; two as fullback and one on the centre. He played a total of 5 test for South Africa.

The Rhodesian team for this match:

Ian Robertson; D Ogilvie; M Mulligan; L Lloyd-Evans; DM Svoboda; MJ Martin; EN Alexander; BM Murphy; RJ Varkevisser; RA Steward; P Abbott; Preston Robertson; GW von Horsten; RG Mundell (Captain); J Craven.

McLean also made some general observations/remarks regarding the lack of Apartheid legislation in Rhodesia. There were no restrictions on Blacks in terms of where they could go or stay and blacks earning more than $1 500 a year also had voting rights in Rhodesia; there were of course not many earning that amount of money per year.

The All Black team who played against Rhodesia can be seen here.

New Zealand scored 5 tries (two by Holmes, while Going, Wyllie and Cottrell also crossed the goal line). Lloyd-Evans scored for Rhodesia and Ian Robertson converted and kicked three penalties.