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Media reaction and interview with Nomis

English and Afrikaans newspapers' reactions to the 2nd Test were slightly varied. English media's primary response was to give NZ credit for a well deserved win, while the Afrikaans media accused the AB of aggressive, malicious and angry behaviour with emphasis on what they called dirty tactics.

Danie Craven was overheard to say, immediately after the match, that “this is the roughest bloody test I ever saw.”

"NOW IT'S SQUARE!" was the headline of the Cape Argus; A.C Parker described the game as: "Tremendously hard and drama-packed". In the ensuing days after the test, Parker also indicated that the type of game NZ played could damage to their image as a country that played hard but honourable rugby.

The Sunday Times headline was: “ALL BLACKS SNATCH WIN IN THE LAST GASP!” and sports columnist Barry Glasspool's primary thrust was that NZ deserved to win because they were more focused, active and creative and scored two tries against South Africa's one.

Fred Labuschagne, form the Johannesburg Sunday Times focussed primarily on the Sid Nomis and Piston van Wyk incidents; he stated that there were incidents in the match that could only bring discredit to the game. The feeling among the NZ media was that Labuschagne was trying to imply in a not entirely subtle way that the Springboks lost was mainly attributable to dirty play by NZ.

In the Cape Times Chris Greyvenstein has retained his post with the heading: "BRUTALITY MARS TENSE SECOND TEST", and warns that the class of brutality cannot be repeated in the following tests. Greyvenstein also highlights the Nomis incident which he described as "A Cold Blooded Felling."

Gerhard Kirsten, sports editor of the Burger chose a word which according to Terry McLean rapidly entered into all discussion about the tour. He feared, said Kirsten, that "unless the All Blacks change their attitude, the third test could turn into a bloodbath." “It is not a word,” said Kirsten “that anyone likes to use about a rugby test; but the possibility is there.”

In the ensuing days, reactions from former players, referees, journalists and rugby board members were literally milked for weeks by the media for sensation with comments on reactions type articles. The Sid Nomis incident in particular was blown-up out of all proportions, mainly by the Afrikaans press. This elicited an emotional response from the South Africa rugby public to such an extent that Fergie McCormick received hate mail and telephone calls. David writes as follows about the letters that McCormick received:

Fergie has been under great emotional and psychological stress the last week. He received some poisonous letters and one night in a hotel bar was threatened with violence by four South Africans. One letter addressed to “Our hero” and bearing McCormick’s photo on the envelope had a different tale to tell on the inside. The letter had a picture of Nomis lying in pain on the ground and the words printed above “You are a rat, McCormick.” A hostile crowd noted every move made by the All Black fullback during the Western Province match.

David, interesting enough, never use the word foul play when he writes about the Nomis/McCormick incident but prefers the word "Obstruction" whenever he writes about it. The word choice is likely resultant from an article which appeared a week or so after the test in the Sunday Times. David writes:

South Africa’s biggest circulating Sunday paper, the Sunday Times, carried almost a full page apology to Fergie McCormick this morning. The paper claims that a study of the film strip of McCormick’s alleged stiff arm tackle of Nomis proves that Nomis ran into McCormick’s elbow and all that the fullback was guilty of was obstruction.

Sid Nomis, however, had a totally different take on the whole event and this is what he had to say during an interview with Dave Gemmell:

Sid Nomis at the time of the interview.

Gemmell: The rugby incident people always associate you with, is Fergie McCormick’s (AB fullback) illegal tackle on you. Talk me through it.

Nomis: Yes, we were on our 22 meter line and I intercepted a ball and what went through my mind in a flash was, ‘I’ve just got McCormick to beat and I’m through’. I chipped the ball over his head and made to run around him. Instead of chasing me, he just turned around hundred and eighty degrees and smashed me in the mouth with his elbow. In fact in his biography he says he would have done anything to stop me - and he did! (Laughs). I was down and, for a few seconds, completely out. When I came around the referee, Dr Wynand Malan sat me up; coincidently he was a dentist and he straightened my teeth for me. Two actually came out in his hand, the rest were all bent and there was blood going down my throat (laughs).

Did you go off?

No - I stayed on. There was quite a bit of the game left and it wasn’t actually that sore. More numb.

In the next test did the Springboks target him?

He was one of the dirtiest rugby players I ever played against. Even some of his own team didn’t like him. If you tackled him or if he tackled you, he would somehow manage to kick you, elbow you or punch you, it was amazing. He was unofficially targeted. The coach said, ‘Look there is somebody we don’t like here,’ and we knew who he meant. They found him in the third test and he in fact never played in the fourth test.

What happened?

In the first three minutes I got the ball on the right wing and I put in a cross kick, which turned into a perfect ‘up and under’ and Jan Ellis, Piet Greyling and Hannes Marais all hit him at the same time. It took him quite a while to get up, but hell he was a strong bugger. He then ended up at the bottom of lots of loose scrums and he had a very difficult time. But to his credit, as I said, he was a tough boy.

How were your teeth for the rest of the series?

Well they transplanted the ones that came out, back into my mouth - interestingly they lasted another four years - but they gave me a gum guard made out of plastic and a type of rubber for the next test, which was in Port Elizabeth. So in a way I started the whole gum guard thing, because up until then no one used them (laughs). In that test Fergie punched me again - you can’t believe it. But I got him; I punched him a number of times, before the ref intervened. Nothing happened, I wasn’t penalized, but afterwards at the cocktail party the ref came across and asked me, ‘Did I give you enough time?’ then he smiled and walked off. 

Sid Nomis and McCormick fueding during the third test. By the look of Fergie's head, Sid has just given him a really good lick.

By all accounts the 1970 series against the All Blacks was quite dirty.

The second test at Newlands was the dirtiest game of rugby I have ever seen or been involved in. Alex Wyllie (AB flank) said the same thing to me; he said he wouldn’t like his son to watch or play in a game like that. Dawie de Villiers had nine stitches in his ear; Piston van Wyk had twelve stitches; I had my teeth knocked out and in the doctors room afterwards, Alan Sutherland (AB no 5) was also being stitched up. That was the most hideous test match.

The All Blacks management were silent about the whole incident and accusations that NZ used dirty and illegal tactics. David writes:

The All Black manager, Mr. Burk, has refrained from making any statements about the test but uttered a profound remark last night when he commented that one of the basic laws of the game is that a player going down on the ball must immediately clear himself from it. “The players here in South Africa are not doing it”, Mr. Burk pointed out and left it at that.

For me as a South African, it is clear that Burk is trying to play spin doctor here with a suggestion between the lines that the Springboks and the referee are actually to be blamed for the whole mess. The Springboks had deliberately slowed down NZ's second phase momentum; referee did not apply the rules and New Zealand were simply trying to clean up at the breakdown. David as kiwi journalist was obviously impressed with Burk's "sharp" comment.

Some action was -so it seems- taken against McCormick. David wrote as follows when he writes about the lead up to the game against the WP.

There’s a suspicion that the incomparable Fergie McCormick has been censured by the All Black management. He was surprisingly left out of the team to play the strong Western Province side on Saturday and Wellington’s Gerald Kember was named fullback. Kember played a fine game against SWD but it was still surprising to see him selected ahead of McCormick for this important Saturday match. Was the management adopting this method of reprimanding Fergie for his obstruction of Syd Nomis in the second test? In any event, Kember had to withdraw with a badly twisted ankle and McCormick went back into the team. Still, the point was made, one imagines.