Transvaal cut loose

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The Independent Online
Having more or less walked on water when he stepped out against Harrogate, Rob Andrew found himself forced to swim hard at Kingston Park last night as the tourists from South Africa's mightiest rugby province finally cut loose.

Newcastle gave a debut to Dean Ryan and John Dixon, two more of Andrew's signings who can play in these so-called "friendly" fixtures but are ineligible for Cup or League until well into the new year.

Next season they and whoever else is in the Newcastle team will be fully fledged professionals, the fight for places in this new-age, new-money set-up being both an incentive and a terrible burden for those who were here already.

Still, Andrew is said to have pounds 2.5m at his disposal - locally described as a "war-chest" and Sir John Hall himself, along with box-holders from Newcastle United paying pounds 50 a head to dine, was present to cast an eye over his investment. The signs were inauspicious when Louis van Rensburg scored an early try.

Newcastle are bottom of the English Second Division but neither this lowly status nor the South Africans' bright start left them abashed. A sharp forward drive from a line-out almost took them over but then the chance was squandered when Andrew's drop shot went wide.

Everything, it seems, depends on the former England outside-half, whether it is tactics on the field or the recruitment of players, but in fairness, the enthusiasm is such that the as yet non-playing newcomers, Tony Underwood and Steve Bates, came all the way from Hertfordshire and Hampshire respectively just to watch.

Likewise, Gary Armstrong and Doddie Weir, the Scottish internationals motoring together from the Borders. In the end Weir withdrew from the bench, where Armstrong sat after having his photo taken in Newcastle kit before the kick-off.

Meanwhile, Newcastle conceded another try as soon as they were back in defence. This time Van Rensburg was the provider, James Dalton dummying his way past the remnants of the defence.

Newcastle retorted with a try when Neil Frankland pounced on a loose Transvaal line-out tap. Dixon scored a debut try, Andrew kicked a penalty and Armstrong played the last 12 minutes, but Transvaal augmented their advantage with four more tries, three by Jaco Louw and one by Phillip Schutte.

Newcastle: Tries Frankland, Dixon; Penalty Andrew.

Transvaal: Tries Louw 3, Van Rensburg, Dalton, Schutte; Conversions Pflugler 4.

Newcastle: I McLennan; M Wilson, R Wilkinson (capt), J Fletcher, G Childs; R Andrew, G Robson; N Popplewell, N Frankland, P Van-Zandvliet, F Mitchell, J Dixon, R Arnold, D Ryan, S Cassidy. Replacements: P Belgian for Childs, h/t; G Armstrong for Robson, 28

TRANSVAAL: H Pflugler (Wanderers); A Homan (Roodepoort), C Scholtz, J Mulder, J Louw; L van Rensburg (Rand Afrikaans University), J Adlam (Randfontein); I Hattingh (Roodepoort), J Dalton, K van Greuning, C Niemandt, P Schutte (RAU), Charles Rossouw (capt, Germiston), L Stewart (Roodepoort), G Gouws (RAU). Replacement: J Gillingham (Technikon) for Homan, 11).

Referee: J Fleming (Edinburgh).