The sad spirit of ’64 lives on

Rugby The Boks were even worse than the team were 50 years ago

The Times (South Africa) - - Sport - By Archie Hen­der­son

● When Wang Wy­ness and Mike Law­less played for the Spring­boks in the mid-1960s, the team went through some try­ing times, los­ing seven Test matches in a row.

As the team bus dis­gorged the Bok team to play France on a July Satur­day in 1964 at PAM Brink Sta­dium in Springs, a dis­grun­tled fan ap­proached Law­less: “Are you Law­less, Wy­ness, or just plain f ****** use­less?” he in­quired.

Wy­ness wasn’t even play­ing that day. The Boks lost to France and the sup­porter prob­a­bly felt he had noth­ing left to live for even though the score­line was only 8-6 — and it was only the first of the se­quence of seven set­backs. I hope he didn’t live to see last Satur­day’s game.

For those of us old enough to re­mem­ber PAM Brink ’64, Dublin 2017 was the worst per­for­mance by a Spring­bok rugby team. Ever. There are too many peo­ple to blame, so I’ll start with Su­pers­port, bearer of the bad news: “Where the hell was Xola?”

When we no­ticed that the chan­nel’s reg­u­lar — and en­gag­ing — rugby in­ter­locu­tor had been re­placed by an in­sipid stand-in, it was clear there would be trouble. It was as if Allister Coet­zee had se­lected the TV panel last Satur­day night.

At the other end, the Dublin end, the mob at RTE Ire­land made even Nick Mal­lett look com­pla­cent.

“A lot of peo­ple have been ask­ing about the Ir­ish jer­sey, and the tra­di­tion in rugby union that the home union changes to fa­cil­i­tate the away side — and Ire­land re­ally only clash with South Africa.

"So, in­stead of white we went for grey. But if you’re con­fused, the team that are Ire­land are the team that are dis­ci­plined, or­gan­ised and de­cent. South Africa are the other team,” said the Ir­ish O’Nt­shinga.

And that was at half time, when Ire­land led only 14-0. O’Nt­shinga’s ob­ser­va­tion only opened the flood­gates.

Shane Hor­gan, who played wing for Ire­land and is now wing­ing it as a so­lic­i­tor, used a less than le­gal term to de­scribe the Boks: “Pretty pa­thetic.” He was re­fer­ring mostly to the game man­age­ment (read: A Coet­zee, guilty as charged).

If you thought that was just the Ir­ish hav­ing a go at us in the bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which will be de­cided on Wed­nes­day be­tween South Africa, Ire­land and France, a Kiwi waded in.

Brent Pope, who played a bit of provin­cial rugby in New Zealand and now writes chil­dren’s books – I ask you? – sug­gested that the Boks were just lazy and rud­der­less. The name of A Coet­zee never came up, but it was clear whom he was re­fer­ring to.

Allister has three games to go be­fore he’s fired, so he has noth­ing to lose against France on Satur­day. Bring War­rick Ge­lant in on the wing; he’s a big man who can at least catch gar­ry­owens; move Jesse Kriel to full­back be­cause he’s not a cen­tre’s der­riere; dump El­ton, who had no kick­ing game what­so­ever last Satur­day, for the Pol­lard bloke; put Rudy Paige at No 9; give Lukhanyo Am a chance at out­side cen­tre; put Fran­cois Ven­ter at 12 while send­ing Damian de Al­lende back to Mil­ner­ton, if they’ll have him. And that’s just the backs. Surely, he will by now know how to re­assem­ble the pack, es­pe­cially with Duane Ver­meulen there.

It might not be enough to beat the French, but if the Boks can re­mem­ber PAM Brink ’64, they might be in­spired to pull off a Lazarus­like come­back.

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