Fourth test against the Lions, 1962, Bloemfontein
The 1962 Lions were not a weak team, but they were not in the class of the great 1955 Lions. The forwards were at times very good but the backline did not have the penetration of the 1955 tourists. Their defence was at times also on the weak side. The Springboks, however, were the undisputed rugby champions of the world having beaten New Zealand, Australia and the four home unions. For this series they were coached by the popular and highly regarded Natalian, Izak van Heerden, and the captain was the great Johan Claassen.
It was thus somewhat surprising that the Boks seemed to struggle to put the Lions away convincingly. The first test was a drab affair and ended in a 3 – 3 draw. In the second test the Boks scraped home 3 – 0 courtesy of a Keith Oxlee penalty. The Lions claimed to have scored a push-over try when they wheeled the scrum on the Springbok line and Keith Rowlands fell on the ball with four Lions on top of him. For the rest his life Rowlands believed that he scored and the Lions and British press were rather bitter about referee Carlson’s decision not to award the “try”. The third test went a little better for the Boks and they won 8 – 3, but had the Lions made better use of their chances the result might well have been different. Then came the fourth test in Bloemfontein.
The skies were clear and the surface of the Free State Stadium was hard, dry and quick. Richard Sharp kicked off for the Lions and within three minutes he attempted a drop which he missed. Two minutes later Dave Hewitt attempted a penalty well within his own half but was just wide. Then Willcox missed a penalty when Hannes Botha crash tackled the full-back after he had called for a mark. In the fifteenth minute Sharp kicked high and Lionel Wilson was caught in possession. He held onto the ball and this time Willcox kicked the penalty. Hugo van Zyl then went over for a ‘try’ but was called back for a forward pass. A few minutes later, the Springboks however took the lead.
Jannie Engelbrecht came into the line at full speed from the right wing, beating the cover defence, and putting John Gainsford away. He ran straight at Willcox before sending Wang Wyness over for a splendid try which Oxlee converted. The Springboks now asserted themselves with meaning, launching attack after attack. The next try came when Gainsford and Wyness ran hard at the Lions’s centres before Mannetjies Roux was put away on the left wing for a try under the posts which Oxlee again converted. The Boks were up 10 – 3.
The Lions were far from beaten yet and Cowan scored a very good try after a movement in which Sharp, Weston, Rogers and Campbell-Lamberton participated. Frik du Preez and Dave Hewitt each missed a penalty and it was 10-6 at halftime. Shortly after the restart the Boks scored again. The ball was kicked dead and the Lions dropped in from their 25. Jannie Engelbrecht gathered on the right wing and passed inside to Frik du Preez. He was tackled but managed to get his pass away to Wyness who ran left oustside the Lions’s midfield defence and send John Gainsford away racing for the left-hand corner. He scored in a great dive for the line.
A few minutes later the Lions attacked with a high punt by Dicky Jeeps from a set scrum. Mannetjies Roux caught the ball almost on the Springbok line, but instead of kicking for touch he tried to run the ball out and was caught in possession. As he was tackled by Budge Rogers the ball went loose for Rowlands to gather score at the posts. Willcox converted and suddenly it was only 13 – 11. The Springboks, however, still had plenty of juice in the tank.
Mannetjies Roux was put away on the blind side following a tight-head, and almost got through. Oxlee kicked another penalty and then came one of the great Springbok tries. Engelbrecht took the ball from the kick-off after Oxlee’s penalty and he again found Frik du Preez on his inside. He set off on a magnificent, unforgettable run down the middle of the field, ball in one hand and his black hair waving in the wind. He ran through at least six tacklers and when confronted by the last two, passed to Hugo van Zyl on his left who dived over. This was an unbelievable run and many think that Frik could have scored himself if he went for the line. Oxlee converted and it was 21 – 11. Three minutes later the Boks scored again. They won a scrum fifteen yards out; Hopwood stepped back and gathered smartly before slipping the ball to Hugo van Zyl on the outside. He send it back inside again to the galloping Johan Claassen to score a try in his final test. Oxlee converted. Frik then missed with a drop from a penalty but Oxlee succeeded with another penalty.
Three minues from full-time came one of the classic tries in Springbok history. The ball went from Piet Uys down the line with the final pass from Wyness to Mannetjies Roux on the left wing. He received the ball on the halfway line and beat Cowan easily on the outside with a magnificent burst of speed and then cut inside past the waiting full-back, Willcox, to dive over in spectacular fashion halfway between the corner and the posts. Oxlee again converted. This try lives on in the national rugby memory as it is also immortalised in Laurika Rauch’s famous song “Groete aan Mannetjies Roux”.
Campbell-Lamberton scored a final consolation try for the Lions, but they well and truly beaten, 34 -14. This was the performance that Springbok supporters had been waiting for all season. The Springboks were powerful, much quicker and more accurate in their execution. They played like world champions and it was a great test match.
*Article written by Willem Frost