Rugby Union: Wallabies are wary of resurgent Springboks

Click to follow
The Independent Online
South Africa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24

New Zealand. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

SOUTH AFRICA'S re-emergence to join rugby's leading nations after only one Test match sets the scene for what might prove a spectacular contest against the world champions, Australia, in Cape Town next Saturday.

One of the most fascinated spectators among the 70,000 who packed Ellis Park on Saturday in perfect conditions, was Bob Dwyer, the Wallabies coach who believes that the Springboks must now be considered serious contenders for the 1995 World Cup, especially as it will be staged in their own country.

'I will spend a lot of time this week studying videos of this Test before deciding whether to change our plans,' Dwyer said. 'At the game I sat between skipper Nick Farr-Jones and hooker Phil Kearns and it was interesting watching their faces as the game unfolded.

'Early on Kearns became intense studying the power of the big Springbok forwards. Then during the second half Nick said he was surprised at the pace and running skills displayed by the backs. What intrigued me about the back play was how they lined up deep and gave themselves room to change direction with long passes.

'It looked more like a schoolboy game played at the tempo of an international. At times during the second half I thought I was watching the Fijians playing sevens. They proved that basic techniques are still effective and maybe the top countries have become over-sophisticated.'

Although the South Africans deserved the accolades showered on them for their spirited comeback during the final quarter after trailing by 17 points, it should be underlined that New Zealand deserved a victory which meant so much to them. They have always had a hang-up about playing the Springboks and this was only their second victory in Johannesburg.

Afterwards the captain, Sean Fitzpatrick, admitted his team was completely exhausted following nine weeks of touring which also included nine Tests. Many of his team were badly bruised and battered which was an indication of the rough tactics used by their opponents. Before half-time the Australian referee, Sandy MacNeill, was heard to say on the intercom after reprimanding the Springbok forward, Wahl Bartmann: 'That is my fifth warning for foul play.'

Afterwards the South African captain, Naas Botha, complained that MacNeill failed to show courtesy when approached and refused to explain his decisions for frequent penalties. The coach, John Williams, added that he was surprised his team were so often punished in the line-out as he thought they had cleared up how the laws would be interpreted.

This is a rather naive approach. Now the Springboks are back they must play to the international laws, which means lifting a man before the ball is touched is illegal. Also stamping, kicking and punching cannot be tolerated.

Their approach contributed to defeat as they were outplayed in the first-half line-outs and conceded 15 penalties to nine. Whatever possession they gained early on was used by Botha to kick long in the rarified air and push the All Blacks back. These tactics did not disturb the winners as they controlled forward play with fine performances by Zinzan Brooke and Michael Jones. After the interval, they hit a purple patch for 20 minutes and won four successive scrums which led to a try by John Timu. Frank Bunce made a superb midfield break to create room for another John Kirwan try.

When Botha realised he could not win by kicking away hard-won possession the game came alive with some breathtaking running. Danie Gerber, a 34-year-old centre who played when his country last met New Zealand in 1981, had a fantastic game, scoring two tries.

South Africa: Tries Gerber 2, Muller. Conversion Botha. Penalty Botha. New Zealand: Tries Z Brooke, Kirwan, Timu. Conversions: Fox 3. Penalties: Fox 2.

SOUTH AFRICA: T van Rensburg; P Hendricks (Transvaal), P Muller (Natal), D Gerber (W Province), J Small (Transvaal); N Botha (N Transvaal), R du Preez (Natal); H Rodgers (Transvaal), U Schmidt (N Transvaal), L Muller (Natal), A Geldenhuys (E Province), A Malan (N Transvaal), W Bartmann, I MacDonald (Transvaal), J Breedt (Transvaal). Replacements: H Fuls (Transvaal) for Small; J Styger (Free State) for Rodgers.

NEW ZEALAND: J Timu (Otago); V Tuigamala (Auckland), W Little (N Harbour), F Bunce (N Harbour), J Kirwan (Auckland); G Fox (Auckland), A Strachan (Auckland); R Loe (Waikato), S Fitzpatrick (Auckland), O Brown (Auckland), I Jones (N Auckland), R Brooke (Auckland), J Joseph (Otago), M Jones, Z Brooke (Auckland). Replacements: E Clark (Auckland) for Tuigamala; J Preston (Canterbury) for Strachan.

Referee: S MacNeill (Australia).