25 August 1956 – Eden Park, Auckland
It was the Springboks best performance of the tour. A real confidence booster after the shock defeat against the University side but at the same time a game that had a negative impact in more than one way. It showed New Zealand the danger of allowing the Springboks space to play the Craven-linking pattern. Not that New Zealand was unaware of the Springbok style but it re-affirmed the necessity of keeping the Springboks on the back foot. On the Springbok management side this comprehensive victory left them with the belief that the Craven-linking pattern is the master-pattern; the way to beat the All Blacks. Howe’s sterling performance left the impression that he was the key to unlock the pattern and that earned him a place as flyhalf for the 4th test side. Continue reading
22 August 1956 – Athletic Park, Wellington
Springboks 15 / New Zealand Juniors 22
Noticeably, conversation about the 1956 tour always detour to the match against the New Zealand Universities. Historically, it was the first time a New Zealand University team played against an international touring side but this match is synonymous with the 1956 tour for other reasons. The fact that the Universities team won is also not really the main reason why Kiwi’s still rate this match as the best match of the tour. It was the manner in which the Universities team won that delighted the New Zealand rugby fraternity. All the good football came from the home side. The backs demonstrated opportunism, sensible anticipation and application while the pack totally dominated proceedings. The game is nevertheless mostly remembered as the game of the great Ron Jardon ‘try-that-wasn’t’. A great howl went up in protest when Jardon was called back after a spectacular 65 meter run through almost the entire Springbok team (listen to Winston McCarthy highlights of the match here) and old-timers almost without exception still mention the Jardon try to this day whenever the 1956 tour are under discussion. Continue reading
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.” Continue reading
8 August 1956 – Spriggenspark; Wanganui
South Africa 36 / Wanganui-King Country 16
4 August 1956 – Athletic park Wellington
South Africa 8 / New Zealand 3
The second test was an intense affair. One of the fiercest test matches ever between these two nations and not without its incidents and controversies. Spiro Zavos writes: “On a day when the wind was as direct and strong as a right-arm jab, the Springboks broke the All Blacks in the forwards into the wind, then, in the second half, smashed around the short side of the lineout twice to score the tries that won the game. This was the hardest game of rugby I’d ever seen. Players indulged in fist fights from the first scrum. In one memorable set-to, Dixon and Johnstone had a personal duel, oblivious to the play that carried on further down the paddock. That was the tone of the game and the series; nasty, hard and vicious.” Continue reading
August 2, 1956 – Solway Ground – Masterton
South Arica 19 / Wairarapa-Bush 8
It was another disappointing Springbok performance and although they won by 11 points all the tries came from individual effort rather than from smooth team work as one would expect after 7 weeks and 15 matches on tour (excluding the 3 weeks and 6 matches in Australia).
Major part of the problem was injuries but there was also way too much reliance on the backline to make things happen. The injury problems affected both the forwards and back line with Piet du Toit a prop having to play in the loose trio as No8 and with Rosenberg coming back after long injury into the backline. Viviers was also forced to play with injury when Buchler pulled his thigh muscle so badly in training the day before the match that he was not able to play again on tour. The backs were arguably more disrupted/affected with players having to play out of position and/or on return to soon to match situations after injury especially since the team were relying heavily on them to make magic against a flat lying defence. The overall impression was one of mediocrity. Continue reading
July 28, 1956 – Rugby Park; Invercargill
South Africa 23 / Southland 12
Southland hospitality was at play when the Springboks arrived in a cold Invercargill. Lavish entertainment including flights to the beauty spots in the South Island was laid out by the Southland Rugby Union.
The rugby also turned out to be entertaining with the Springboks scoring 6 tries and the Southland forwards putting in a spirited performance against the heavier Springbok pack. Place kicking almost cost the Springboks the match while defensive lapses -due to injury to some senior players who couldn’t play- in the Southland backline saw the Springboks establishing an 11 point lead within the first 12 minutes of the match.
As this cartoon indicates the Springboks had some real problems with their place kicking. They were able to convert only one of six tries and that kept Southland within reach especially in the second half when they came back strongly scoring their second try and forcing a few penalties.
All in all it was an entertaining match that had the crowd involved and roaring in support for the home team. Two late tries secured the match for South Africa and gave the scoreboard a more respectable look from a South African perspective.
Teams and individual performances
Southland had a formidable team in 1956 and an even more formidable record against touring international teams, having beaten all of them except South Africa. Fullback Jim Millar had played for the South Island as had halfback Jack McKenzie, who had also been an All Black reserve. Arthur Woods, the hooker, toured with the All Blacks in 1953/54 and Kevin Laidlaw (No12) was destined to tour with the All Black to South Africa in 1960 playing in three of the four test matches. Murray Miller the lock forward who captained the side was an experienced campaigner and played in the 1956 All Black trials. Continue reading
South Africa 27 /West Coast-Buller 6
Dominating in the scrums and line-outs has so far proven to be not enough for the 1956 Springbok team. Not even halfway thought the tour yet and they’ve already lost two tour matches namely against Waikato and Canterbury as well as the first test in spite of winning the line-out and scrums contests in each of these matches.
The two main problems seem to have been; firstly, an inability to contest at the rucks/tackle ball; secondly, lack of polish in the backline. The lack of structure at the rucks and collision areas has been the main area targeted by the local team’s right from the Waikato match. The primary approach was simply to change the line-outs and scrums into rucks and then to charge through in numbers and/or to put the ball behind the Springboks with box kicks and then charge at the backs.
This not only negated the Springboks dominance in the scrums and line-outs but it also countered the Springboks style of using fast loose forwards linking with the backs. The Springbok seagulls (loose forwards hanging loose) were seen by the knowledgeable rugby scribes as the reason for the Springboks problems at the rucks. Clive Ulyate’s tendency to overuse the tactical kick also were under increased scrutiny mainly because it took both the wide hanging loose forwards and the pacy Springboks backs out of the match. Continue reading
Canterbury 9 / South Africa 6
This match was a turning point in terms of the media and public’s (in both countries) relationship with Craven and the 1956 Springbok team.
Terry McLean writes: This was the day that Canterbury, for the second time in three encounters, defeated South Africa, this was the night that Danie Craven, after telling me that he was not a happy man, said a critical piece about refereeing in New Zealand, this was the week-end in which he made an official complaint about the quality of New Zealand refereeing and this was the succeeding week in which angry passions were stirred in the backrooms of newspaper offices, both South African and New Zealand, that the Grey River Argus felt impelled to say, “Sour grapes, Dr Craven –very sour grapes indeed!”
The 1956 team was not a particularly happy touring group and struggled to find their feet right from the start of the New Zealand leg of the tour after losing the first match against Waikato. The Springboks had a hard time adjusting to the wet playing surfaces, the rainy/muddy conditions, the flat lying and rush-up defensive style of the New Zealand teams but in particularly with the kick and charge/marauding foot rush tactics of the New Zealand teams. The rucks were a nightmare for the Springboks and they were at loss how to counter the locals’ aggression, structure and ascendency at the tackle ball. Continue reading
’56 Springbok tour : 18th July 1956 – Fraser Park; Timaru
Springboks 20 / South-Canterbury;North-Otago;Mid-Canterbury Combined 8
Craven took a week off –resting at Mount Cook- and under instruction of assistant manager Dan de Villiers the Springbok intentions was to run the ball against a team not likely to front any stiff opposition.
A number of factors combined to derail the effort especially in the last quarter of the second half when the match turned into an extremely scrappy affair. These factors being injuries –before and during the match- poor refereeing, and a general sort of holiday or lack of real application attitude amongst the second stringers.
The team was essentially made up of the second stringers who spend the 6 days before the test in Queens Town for a bit of skiing and relaxation. Only Dryburg, Johnstone and Lochner had appeared in the test team the previous weekend. A number of players like Buckler, Briers, James Starke, Melt Hanekom played in their first match on tour. Brain Pfaff who was struggling with injuries was also in the team on flyhalf. Basie Viviers was supposed to start but re-injured himself the day before the match during practice.
This picture shows Theuns Bries beating his man. Briers and Starke played in the first matches on tour after arriving in New Zealand as replacements just before the Otago game. Continue reading