Third test 1956

18 August 1956 – Third Test; Lancaster Park, Christchurch

New Zealand 17 / South Africa 10

Skinner:   “From what I’ve read over the years you’d have thought the fighting in that third test lasted the entire game, but that simply wasn’t true. There were only two punches –one that floored Koch and the one that stopped Bekker.” 

Don Clarke:  “Kevin Skinner is quite a modest man but I saw his knuckles after the match.” 

Most New Zealanders older than 60 still class this test as one of the greatest sporting events of their lives. It was the day New Zealand took one step closer towards becoming rugby world champions; the day they moved one step closer to payback for 1949.

The whole country was emotional charged; losing was not an option. Winning was non-negotiable and the victory as a consequence a huge relief but it was the manner in which the All Blacks constructed the victory that make it -to this day- one of the if not the sweetest All Black performance for the old guard kiwi rugby supporter.

The All Blacks played with an unquenchable passion ignited and blown to full fruition by the selection and superior performance of three All Black legends. To be fair every single All Black played himself to a standstill in this test but the test is remembered mostly for the performances and influence of three new selections. Kevin Skinner was brought back from retirement to sort the South African front row bullies Koch and Bekker. Peter Jones was added to the loose trio to counter Retief, Ackermann and Lochner while Don Clarke was added at fullback to sort the All Blacks woeful kicking display during the second test.

Clarke made his presence felt within the first three minutes by landing a morale boosting 45 yards penalty kick; Skinner made his presence felt in the first minute when he knocked Koch down with a right hook whose whack on impact could be heard five rows deep. Within two minutes of kick-off the steaming cauldron that was Jones had twice overflowed in breaks-away from lineouts, writes McLean in ‘Battle for the rugby crown’. Where Skinner derailed the Springbok front row with his fists and presence, Jones was like a run-away human tank that destroyed everything in his path while Clarke meticulously landed every penalty forced by a rampant All Black pack that were hammering and beating the Springboks into their own area.

Don Clarke kicking his first penalty in the third test

Most South Africans, when asked, will probably state that the Springboks lost this test match because of Kevin Skinner. Craven made no secret that he believed Skinner with his dirty tactics had a decisive impact on the outcome of the match. In the Craven tapes (recorded in the mid-eighties) he said that they used Skinner to punch the South African front row into submission. It was I believe not only the punching but also the arrogance and gamesmanship of Skinner that got to the Springboks and that resulted in a kicking incident (an attempt to get Skinner) in the fourth test that ended the career of lock forward Tiny White. Skinner had a swagger and an unbearable super superior attitude that even took the referee by surprise. He warned Koch once and then knocked him down before setting his sights on Jaap Bekker. When Koch swung at him in full view of the referee he not only got penalised but Skinner used the incident to belittle the South Africans with smirk and attitude and then rubbed salt into their wounds by shifting over to the other side of the scrum to sort Bekker. He sorted Bekker with good scrummaging technique but mostly with fist and a constant barrage of mock and sneer.

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