Despite losing to Wellington the 1965 Springboks had won their other seven matches and were not expected to be troubled by West Coast-Buller in Greymouth. But the heavily outweighed Combined team forwards played so well that the tourists, admittedly in difficult conditions, had a real struggle on their hands.

“Come the 27th July of every year until they are all gone, there should be drinks on the house for all members of the West Coast-Buller team, who today were defeated by the Springboks by the meagre score of 11 to nil. There were excuses for the Springboks. The pitch wasn’t as heavy and villainously difficult as Rugby Park in Invercargill, but it was by far the slipperiest the Springboks have so far encountered and down the grandstand touchline it was like one of those mud pools at Rotorua without the heat turned on. Then, just on halftime, reaching across the horrible mess to flykick a ball into touch, Nomis pulled a hamstring muscle, was taken from the field with a look of considerable pain on his face and so far as could be determined immediately became, like so many of his forebears of 1956, a suspect for the rest of the tour. Hopwood, too, got a crack on the leg and when he also had to leave the field, it looked as if a war of attrition was developing. Happily, “Hoppy” wasn’t gone too long and though his leg was bandaged from knee to calf in a most ominous fashion, he soon got the feel of things and started hopping around very spryly indeed. To top off the, so to speak, external problems, Mr Watson’s refereeing was plainly baffling to the ‘Boks. Malan had a short chat with him at half-time and it was probably the annoyance of fiddling decisions which caused Botha at one stage to dig an elbow sharply into a Coaster who had tackled him at the lineout. Altogether, the ‘Boks were penalised 16 times while receiving 11 awards themselves. If they hadn’t got their noses in front as early as the second minute and improved to an invaluable 6-0 lead not too long afterwards, there might have been irritation, frustration, fists and fighting.

So much, then, for the problems the ‘Boks never really mastered. One other problem was their own ineptitude. Their lineout play, except when it was centred at Botha—whose reappearance jumping at No. 2 was extremely promising—was indescribably bad, Janson not having the faintest idea of making clean and accurate catches. Their tactical play, being dependent on Smith’s ideas of initiating the attack, was not masterly, in fact it didn’t develop authority until the last 15 minutes when Nelie with runs alongside the scrum began to bring Schoeman into attacks, and when Botha began to play the Willie Away extremely well, considering the conditions. Otherwise, the midfield was lazy and uninterested, Truter had a positive genius for not doing the right thing, and it needed stout work by Mulder, Oxlee and Hopwood, especially the first-mentioned, to tidy up the roughness.

But even if the ‘Boks had been at their best, which they most decidedly weren’t, they would still have had the devil’s own job subduing the tigers of the Coast. When Caldwell, the biggest forward at 15st—the weight advantage to the Springboks, incidentally, was 19 lb a man—Wood and MacRae began getting to the ball quickly during the early stages and kept on getting there, with noble assistance from Veale and Maughan, for most of the rest of the half, it was fair to expect that in the second half, as with Southland, there would be a dramatic change, and the Springbok machine would begin to roll. But until the last ten minutes, these boys were still getting to the ball quickly, Wood with a persistence which was really extraordinary in the vile conditions. What was more, Caldwell and Nahr developed, pretty early, a skill in tapping the ball at the lineout which defeated the ‘Boks as no other team in New Zealand except Wellington had defeated them. Johnson, at 10 st one of the smallest men in first- class Rugby in New Zealand, had a Catchpole-like ability to divine the trend of the tap and besides being sturdily sure on defence he gave Halsall excellent passes. Unhappily, the backs couldn’t quite measure up to the ‘Boks. Halsall did rather too much kicking, McAra had but few chances to demonstrate an obvious ability and when James on the left received one kick with only Truter to pass and perhaps eight yards of ground to the touchline to make use of, he lost confidence in himself and sought MacRae’s assistance on the inside. That was one chance of a try gone. Another went when Johnson, on the goal-line, threw a pass which a forward knocked on; but that run, I am afraid, started when the ball came to Johnson’s hand directly from the tunnel and if there had been a try the ‘Boks would have had reason to utter a loud and piercing scream of rage. Dawe in the first half twice made excellent attempts at penalty goals, one falling directly beneath the bar and the other scraping the outside edge of an upright. These were the scoring efforts of the Coasters and naturally they weren’t good enough. But I still would say, especially when I remember that Malan, in spite of a scrum of 3-2-I at one stage when both Nomis and Hopwood were off the field, won ten heels against the head, that the gallant men of the Combined side deserve to be remembered, every 27 July until they are all gone, by the Rugby enthusiasts of this district.

For it’s a lonely place for Rugby, this part of the world. There are four teams in Buller, ten in West Coast. Morris Hill, the star photographer of New Zealand Newspapers, last night addressed the Jaycees and got himself involved in a running discussion with his promising opening that though it was ten years since he was last on the Coast, things hadn’t changed at all in the meantime. Today, some of the Jaycees were coming to him to say that, unfortunately, he was and is right. In such a defeatist atmosphere, it’s hard for a sport which thrives as much on competition and contentiousness as Rugby to retain its virility. Or it would seem to be hard. The great feature of the performance today, so it seemed to me, was that it was an affirmation of all the rugged, fighting-Irish qualities of the Coast. “Do What You Do, Do Well,” said the Argus of the candidates for Miss New Zealand. The gals might all have been candidates for the Combined team.

So it’s Springbok Day into the future, if there’s any justice.

West Coast-Buller: R. T. Dawe; B. Stack, W. N. Forsyth (captain), W. R. James; T. N. McAra, L. B. Halsafi; B. W. Johnson; J. B. Maughan; M. S. MacRae, 0. H. Nahr, B. E. Caldwell, G. R. Wood; P. W. Veale, B. P. Roche, J. C. Smith.
South Africa: Mulder; Truter, Roux, Nomis, Mans; Oxlee, Smith; Hopwood; Slabber, Botha, Janson, Schoeman; Parker, Malan, Marais.
Referee: Mr R. Watson (Wanganui).”

From “The Bok Busters” by Terry McLean. Published A H & A W Reed 1965 p.85-87.