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29 Aug 1970 - Critical third test

The tension was unbearable, and both teams surprised with unexpected and daring team selections in an attempt to achieve some sort of strategic advantage.

The New Zealand coach made the following remarks towards Gabriel David:

Coach Ivan Vodanovich told me in his blunt manner that tomorrow third test was the most tremendously important rugby match of his life. He was cautiously confident and extremely hopeful of a New Zealand victory but expressed one or two private doubts.

The All Black manager Mr. Burk had no similar qualifications about a New Zealand victory. “We won’t just win, we will win easily,” he told one New Zealand journalist. “We will do them over big time”.

Colin Meads requested that should not be considered for the third test because he felt he was not 100% ready for the intensity of test rugby. The New Zeeland selectors decided however to include him in the AB team for the third test. This decision and the positional shift of Bryan Williams to centre were according to Gabriel David’s errors that contributed to NZ's poor performance in the 3rd test. “New Zealand selectors made serious selection blunders and South Africa got it right”.

The article below explains the tension in the All Black camp at announcement of the 3rd test team. See also the article at the end; the All Blacks on post mortem realised they got it all wrong in the team selection department for the third test of the 1970 series.

Collin Meads during the third test

Mof Myburg and Loft Nel were selected for the Springbok team under great criticism (of the South Afrikaans media) for the third test. Lofty Nel who made his debut against the 1960 All Blacks was at thirty-six the oldest man to have represented South Africa. Mof and Lofty’s inclusions in the Springbok team were clearly a strategic move and part of a game plan as the following paragraph in David's book indicates:

The Springbok coach Johan Claassen announces that he has special plans for the two replacements, Lofty Nel and Mof Myburg, and if they succeed, then South Africa will win the test.

After the test David writes as follows about this tactical manoeuvre by the Springbok coach:

The astute Springbok coach Johan Claasen obviously gambled on the All Blacks picking Meads for this test. He decided to explore a restricted tight core in the New Zealand side by strengthening his own. So he recalled Myburg and decided to use Nel as a loose-tight man. It worked splendidly.

Personally I think the decision was based on the fact that the Springboks came second in both the previous tests in the lineout’s and in the scrums. The Mof and Frik combination play in the lineout was well known and Lofty was not just a lineout option but added greater weight and stability in the scrums. It would simply not have made sense to replace the mobile Tiny Neethling on prop with a heavier scrum worker and then undo the move by selecting a small and mobile No8 like Tommy Bedford. Claassen has, I think, decided on Mof and Lofty for tactical reasons and because off the Springboks inability to hold their own in the tight phase play during the previous two tests. His decision was made independent of whether Meads were going to be selected or not. The Springboks came off second best in both the previous tests -especially in the second test- in the scrums and lineout’s and there was really no other choice than to bulk-up in the pack.

The fascinating fact about Mof Myburg is that he played in 18 tests for South Africa and was only twice on the losing side. He was also involved in four tests that ended in a draw, the rest the Springboks have all won; maybe an indication of the importance of weight up front. Mof was often critized for being too heavy and not mobile enough and was left out a few times for exactly that reason. 

Mof Myburg and Frik du Preez, who were great buddies and a proven combination in the lineout.

Tiny Neethling a mobile prop replaced for the test with a scrum worker in the person of Mof Myburg. A move that payed dividends for SA.

The Springbok team for this test was: Ian McCallum; Gert Muller; Joggie Jansen; Mannetjies Roux; Sid Nomis; Piet Visagie; Dawie de Villiers (Capt); Lofty Nel; Piet Greyling; Frik du Preez; Johan Spies; Jan Ellis; Mof Myburg; Piston van Wyk; Hannes Marais.

The All Black team can be seen here.

Mental games before the test

Eastern Province military headquarters was the place that Johan Claassen planned to use this time for some secretive training sessions away from the cameras and media to prepare for the third test. The facilities at the military base were however so poor that the Springboks eventually trained at Boet Erasmus stadium itself.

The SA media made an issue of the plastic arm guard that Colin Meads were going to wear during the test. So much so that even Piet Robbertse, the referee, responded and indicated that he will inspect the thing and if he thinks it is dangerous Meads will not be allowed to play with it. Say, Mr. Robbertse: “If the guard is of a soft nature then I will probably let him play but I will be watching to see that he doesn’t use it as a bludgeon”.

Media consternation ensued when on the morning before the test it was reported that Mannetjies Roux was injured and could not play and that Tonie Roux the replacement was also injured. Reports of unsuccessful attempts to fly WP centre John Walters to PE appeared in virtually every newspapers and radio broadcast. A shortage/lack of available airline tickets (to fly Walters to PE) was reported as a reason why an "injured" Mannetjies Roux would play.

New Zealand media was convinced that it was mere "mental games" and that nothing was wrong with Mannetjies Roux.

New Zealand 3 / South Africa 14

The Coach pondering, the manager exuberantly over-confident and Kiwi supporters in festive anticipation were in brief the atmosphere and circumstances in the All Black hotel on the morning of the test match. Gabriel David (rugby and be damned) narrate:

Ivan Vodanovich is in pensive mood this morning but Ron Burk is ebullient as ever and confides to anyone who listen that New Zealand will have an easy win this afternoon. Most listen and many agree.

There is an air of confidence about the All Black hotel. It is almost impossible to find space to have a drink.

Comments on NZ's perfromance

The confidence in the All Blacks' ability to win the test was great in run-up, the disappointment and disillusionment about their inability to “make a dent in the Springboks armour” even greater, after the game.

A high ranking NZRFU official exclaimed: “It’s the worst display I’ve ever seen by a New Zealand rugby side.” He wouldn’t be quoted but I can tell you that he’s seen more rugby than most people.

This afternoon on the Boet Erasmus ground before 55,000 people, New Zealand rugby came down to earth with a shattering thud. Not since 1964 on Athletic Park against Australia has New Zealand taken such a beating in a test match. It was comprehensive and it was staggering.

The simple prosaic truth is that the All Blacks played shocking rugby. There was nothing about their game with which to associate their triumphant march through the provinces. It was patternless, formless rugby by New Zealand. There was no positive approach by either the forwards or the backs and the defence was almost non-existent. They made South Africa look a lot beter than they actually played, but at least the Springboks brought a little creative design into the game and bold attacks produced rich rewards.

Comments on performances of Springbok players

Strategically the springboks approach for this test was spot on. From the outset the Springboks initiated most of the play and dominated New Zealand in every facet of the game. Defensively the Springboks’ was rock solid but they also exhibit daring creativeness in attack.

Chris Greyvenstein in his book Springbok Saga has the following on the third test:

The Springboks had their easiest victory of the series in the third test at Port Elizabeth where the highlights were the two tries by the Stellenbosch wing Gert Muller and, again, the wonderful kicking of McCallum.

Mullers first try came after the Springboks have trapped Fergi McCormick, whose blood they were after from the start, with the ball. From the ruck Dawie de Villiers slipped away on a devastating break to send Muller over for his first test try.

Greyvenstein describe the try slightly different than David in particular the fact that Dawie de Villiers broke away from the ruck before he passed to Muller is different from David version. Greyvenstein go ahead and write the following about the Springboks:

...the match was also unforgettable for the deadly tackle with which Piet Greyling slammed McCormick into the ground with less than a minute gone.

As I wrote in one of the previous sessions -reaction to the second test- Sid Nomis indicated in an interview that Piet Greyling, Hannes Marais and Jan Ellis simultaneously struck McCormick when he caught a cross kick made by Nomis himself. It is therefore unclear how many Springboks actually tackled McCormick but by at least three sources seems to indicate that is was only Greyling who smashed into McCormick when he fielded the cross kick. Read here about McCormicks recall of what happened in the third test regarding this incident.

Greyvenstein continues:

It was a great series for Greyling, tall, dark and handsome, and his partner on the flank, red-haired, tearaway Jan Ellis from South West Africa. Their speed to the point of break-down ruined the All Blacks efficiency in creating second phase possession, and probably contributed as much to South Africa's triumph as did McCallum's kicking and, never forget it, Dawie de Villiers' inspiring leadership. 

Piet Greyling which according to Chris Greyvenstein had a good series against the 1970 All Blacks. One bundle of muscles as can be seen in the picture. 

Fergie is not a happy chappie. He just copped a heavy tackle and the realisation is setting in that he might not be able to complete the match.

New Zealand Rugby scribe Alex Veysey interviewed Piet Greyling during 1976 All Black tour about his tackle on McCormick and his influence on the outcome of the 1970 series. That interview can be seen below but in short Greyling revelaed that the tackle on Nomis was more part of an overall game plan than a pre-planned strategy to get back at Fergie McCormick.

Greyvenstein also believes that the inclusion of Lofty Nel and Mof Myburg was strategically the right decision and that New Zealand was largely responsible for their own demise with the inclusion of Meads and the positional shift of Bryan Williams from wing to centre.

With the advantage of hindsight knowledge about three world cup tournaments during which New Zealand "choked" I personally believe that fear of failure, was principal. The fear of losing and of doing something wrong made the players tentative and timid in attack and made them deviate from their normal positive style of playing.

Reasons why NZ lost

Gabriel David writes:

I will always recall this match as the “timid test”. Even in the first half when faced with a fresh breeze and forcing South Africa into countless errors they seemed frightened to adopt imaginative attacking patterns. In contrast, the Springboks switched play with daring bravado and their backs had a picnic against some shocking defense.

Team selection was the reason for the loss, according to some Kiwi's, which David partially agree with but he argues that there was a collective failure by both the forwards and backs. Meads inclusion was a mistake and Bryan Williams didn’t came off on centre, but the forwards were never in the game and the backs were afraid even timid on attack and defence. In contrast, the Springboks were enterprising with the ball in hand as well as superb in technique and efficacy in on defence.

Apart from these, the AB made four major mistakes (blunders), according to David, which largely determined the end result.

Offside play by Thimbleby was blunder one allowing McCallum a 24-yards penalty for the Springboks first points.

Blunder two was Hopkinson’s obstruction giving McCallum an opportunity to gaol a 25 yards penalty 12 yards from the sideline for SA's next three points.

Blunder three occurred when McCormick came into the backline and was caught and pulled into a ruck. Thorne left his wing to go round too help cover at the open side and de Villiers with brilliantly sharp appraisal of the situation broke blindside and whipped the ball to an unmarked Muller who set off from halfway completely in the clear running 50 yards to score his first try.

The fourth blunder came when the ball was fumbled in the NZ backline and Mannetjies Roux was through in a flash kicking it ahead. Roux gathered the ball on the bounce and gave it to Muller. Muller was ankle tabbed by Thorne just short of the goal line but his momentum carried him over for the Springboks second try. 

Gert Muller scores his second try in the corner. Thorne ankle tabbed him just short of the goal line and when there was some debate as to whether he carried the ball over (made two movements in the process of planting the ball). 

Run of the game

Lochore won the toss and elected to play into the wind with the sun from behind. McCallum kicked off and the Springboks began with great fire and passion. Within the first few minutes Nomis hoisted a cross kick on McCormick As he took the ball he was hit with a crunching tackle by Greyling, which left him prostate for some time before he was able to continue.

After 10 minutes McCallum attempted a 60 meter penalty kick that just passed under the cross-bar. The All Blacks launching sporadic attacks and Laidlaw almost scored when he chased after a ball -charged down from a kick- in the in goal area with Muller very lazy to fall on the ball.

In the 20th minute, New Zealand was awarded a penalty 10 yards outside South Africa 25 and near the touchline after a late tackle by Jansen. Bryan Williams standing in for a shaken McCormick calmly landed the goal for New Zealand. Two minutes later, McCallum miss a simple penalty of approximately 24 meters but make no mistake a few minutes later with the next penalty awarded 25 meters away and wide from the posts. Outstanding cover defence by Alex Wylie prevented any further points in the first half and half time the score was even 3 points each.

Six minutes after the start of the second half Williams miss with a penalty from the halfway line. The game deteriorated into an arm wrestle between the two forwards packs, both sides trying to obtain dominance up front.

Midway through the second half Hopkinson committed blatant obstruction when he blocked McCallum when the latter followed trough after launching a chip kick. McCallum succeeded with the resultant penalty to give the Springboks a lead at a critical stage of the game. Four minutes later De Villiers broke sharply to the left from a ruck on his own 10 meter area, drawing the defence before unloading to Gert Muller who demonstrated great pace as he raced 60 to 70 meters down the touch line to score an impressive try in the corner. McCallum missed the conversion and Springboks now led 9-3. 

Springboks were now in control and Visagie looked dangerous as he made a break, and then narrowly missed with an attempted dropped goal. 

Piet Visagie on the break in the third test. He didn't run much but on occations that he did he asked serious questions from the defence. In the fourth test he scored a try after a brilliant line break. The players chasing Visagie -in this picture- is Joggie Jansen and Bryan Williams playing in number 12. The selection of Williams as centre for this test was afterwards heavliy critisized and seen as a big mistake culminating in some defensive lapses and an inablity of the All Black backline to get going.

The final nail was driven into the New Zealand coffin six minutes from full time when Williams could not hold on to a poor pass by Wylie – attempting to pass while held in a tackle. Mannetjies Roux was onto the ball in a flash kicking it through and gathering the ball on the bounce before flinging a pass to Muller. Muller was ankle tapped just before the goal line but the momentum of his run was sufficient to carry him over for his second try. McCallum landed the conversion for the final points of the game.

New Zealand attacked in the last few minutes but they were out of puff and it never looked like they could score at the end.

Comments on individual perfromances

On the New Zealand's side, the debutant test players, Thimbleby and Urlich realized provincial rugby is not test rugby. Hopkinson was outplayed by Myburg and with a tighthead prop struggling NZ was basically out of the game. Kirkpatrick had one of his lethargic games while Meads had a quiet game clearly not ready for the intensity of test rugby after an arm break which kept him on the sideline for almost 3 month. Strahan on lock and Wylie on the flank both had admirable games playing at maximum capacity. Lochore played his heart out but with the rest of the pack not firing on all cylinders his efforts was simply not enough to contain an inspired Springbok team. 

Kirkpatrick on the charge in the third test but he couldn't get through the defence in this test.

Laidlaw have a good start and harassed De Villiers but his habit to run into the forwards spoiled his overall performance. Kirton struggled on 10 and kicked too much with most of his kicks being aimless and ineffective.

MacRae on centre tried to batter ram though the mid field defence and the fact that he didn’t succeeded did not prevent him from trying to do the same thing every time he got the ball. Williams started the match with an injury but was not sufficiently used with Kirton kicking aimlessly and MacRae batter ramming on his inside. Milner had a reasonable debut on the wing and Thorne was reasonable but made a fatal mistake by being out of position, allowing de Villiers to break blindside and putting Muller in space for his first try.

McCormick was “got at” from the start. There was a vendetta going for him. This was obvious and when he went down in a ruck soon after the start of the game he emerged from it in a dazed and pained condition. Retaliation for the Sid Nomis incident in the second test, observed the critics. 

Mof Myburg

At the Springboks side was the inclusion and performances of Nel and Myburg instrumental to the victory. De Villiers started tentative but grew in stature as the game progressed. Visagie kicked way too much according to Gabriel David with a backline that looked really classy every time they ran with the ball. Jansen was the star on defence and Mannetjies Roux the opportunist on attack. 

Gert Muller was the Springboks hero in this test with two tries. The top of the two pictures above shows him slipping in spectacular fashion past Bryan Williams.

McCallum's place kicking was key to the victory. The two penalties he kicked gave the Springboks the cushion and the self-confidence to induce more enterprising play. 

Ian McCallum who kept the Springboks ahead on the scoreboard with his accurate place kicking.

The Springboks had Gert Muller scoring two tries, one converted by McCallum. McCallum also added two more penalties. Bryan Williams succeeded with a penalty for the All Blacks.

After match comments and perceptions

Shaken, disillusioned and alarmingly disappointed described the mood in the New Zealand camp after the game. 

Although left with no other alternatives, the All Black management paid unstinting tributes to South Africa’s victory when the after-match cocktail party got under way. Mr. Burk said New Zealand was outplayed in every department. Mr. Vodanovich commented that South Africa thoroughly deserved to win and that South Africa rugby was a lot stronger than many people thought. Brain Lochore observed that there was no room in international rugby for boys and there were 15 men playing for South Africa today. 

Johan Spies who played for the Springboks on the lock in this series.

See Footage of this match by clicking here.