Beating the All Blacks

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First test, 1960 at Ellispark


The 1956 series between the All Blacks and Springbok in New Zealand was nothing less than a war of attrition. This was probably the hardest, toughest and wildest series in the history of the game. NZ had not yet won a series against SA and after the white wash of 1949 they started preparing in earnest for the 1956 series. The national will to win reached fever pitch and the Springboks never really had a chance of winning the series; they went down 1 – 3 in the four match series.

1960 Springboks

Having lost the 1956 series (the first time ever that the Springboks lost a series in the 20th century), Springbok rugby found itself in a dark place during the late 1950s. The 1958 French were under-estimated and the Boks drew the first test 3 – 3 and lost the second 5 – 9. There was a warm-up test against Scotland before Wilson Whineray’s 1960 All Blacks arrived and although the Boks won 18 – 10, the win was not convincing enough to instill any confidence for the series against the mighty All Blacks. The NZ team came to SA on a mission to become the first All Black team in history to win a series in South Africa. For the first test at Ellispark South Africa selected six new caps and a new captain in Roy Dryburgh. The All Blacks were the hot favourites having won all their provincial leading up to the test match except for a draw against Natal.

Hennie vamn Zyl running around Don Clarke for one of his onforgettable tries.

The atmosphere was electric when the two teams took the field in front of 75 000 anxious spectators.  The Springbok forwards dominated from the kick-off throughout the match except for a brief spell in second half when they were already leading 10 – 0. Johan Claassen and Avril Malan were superior in the line-outs and scrumhalf Dick Lockyear kept the forwards going forward with pinpoint kicking. It took the All Blacks ten minutes to get out of their own half and Don Clarke then missed a 50 yard penalty.

Ten minutes later the Springboks converted their territorial advantage into points with a well rehearsed try. A scrum went down 10 yards from the touchline and just outside the NZ 10 yard line. Abe Malan heeled; Lockyear gave to Keith Oxlee  and Mike Antelme came from the blindside wing at speed to take a short pass. He was through the All Black line in a flash and timed his outside pass to Ian Kirkpatrick perfectly to eliminate the cover defence of Watt. Now only Don Clarke had to be dealt with and Kirkpatrick drew him before sending Hennie van Zyl away. The long-striding left wing rounded Ralph Caulton and planted the ball behind the posts to a tremendous roar. Dryburgh converted and it was 5 – 0.

Hennie van Zyl on his way to score his second try having beaten the great Don Clarke. Each of his two tries was a real winger's try, if ever there was one.

A few minutes later Gainsford also went over under the posts but there was a knock-on. The Springbok forwards had a firm grip on the game, but there was some robust stuff going on amongs the forwards. Piet du Toit demolished Wilson Whineray in the scrums and the one-eyed Martin Pelser played like a man possessed. The Springboks controlled possession in the tight as well as the rucks and more than deserved their lead. Don Clarke was under severe constant pressure as he found a couple of Springboks arriving at simultaneously with Lockyear’s punts over the scrum. The All Blacks were rattled and made some uncharacteristic mistakes.

Peter Jones is just a few inches short of the try line. The miraculous try-saving tackle was made by Bok skipper Roy Dryburgh.

Lockyear then broke past Peter Jones to open a gap but Kirkpatrick failed to hold Oxlee’s pass. SA got a kickable penalty only 35 yards out but Dryburgh unfortunately decided to take a tap kick. The Springbok’s second try came much the same way as the first. Antelme came from the blindside  into the line to create an extra man. The ball reached left wing Hennie van Zyl some 40 yards out but he took the ball almost standing still. He was however quickly in his stride and beat full-back Don Clarke on the outside before brushing off two or three cover defenders and scoring in the tackle of Conway. Lockyear converted again and also kicked a penalty a few minutes later.

The All Blacks then at last seemed to woke up, won some ball in the rucks and tried to launch attacks with the backline. The Springbok tackling was however so ferocious that All Blacks had to try and keep it amongs the forwards. Nothing was going the All Black way and the reliable Don Clarke missed another penalty from a comparatively easy position. The determined Springboks responded with some great attacking play and Martin Pelser went over the line only to lose the ball. Had Oxlee opened the game up more in the last fifteen minutes, the Springbok backs would probably have inflicted more damage on the beaten All Blacks.

Peter Jones, alias _the Tiger_, flying into Hennie van Zyl (no 13). No 10 is Keith Oxlee.

This was a resounding Springbok victory; New Zealand’s biggest defeat since the first test of 1928 when they went down 0 – 17 to the Boks. The ferocious determination with which the Springboks went into game, must have come as a big shock to the All Blacks; they were clearly not prepared for what was coming. The 1970 All Blacks of Brain Lochore fell into the same trap when they were also not prepared for the Springbok tsunami that hit them in the first test at Loftus Versfeld. The victory at Ellis Park by Roy Dryburgh’s Springboks fully redeemed them from the 1956 series defeat in New Zealand and the rock-bottom performances against the French in 1958.


*Article written by Willem Frost

Real Rugby

Real Rugby

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