June 20 1956

Springboks get back on track in Palmerston North.

After losing to Waikato, struggling in the mud against North Auckland and getting off side with the crowd in Auckland the 1956 Springboks were pleased to encounter a warm welcome in Palmerston North. The weather was cold and wet for their match against Manawatu-Horowhenua but both teams rose above the conditions to turn on an enjoyable and entertaining match, with the Springboks winning 14 – 3.


Stu Freebairn - Manawatu try scorer.

June 20, 1956—Palmerston North
Though the combined side of which he was chairman of selectors was defeated—as everyone expected it would be—by 14 to 3, tough Tom Madgwick, a Palmerston North hotel-owner, performed a most valuable service to the tour as a whole with his declaration that, come what may, Manawatu-Horowhenua would play the open game. For that matter, the whole of the visit to Palmerston North, and most notably the reception given Springboks after their day-long Sunday railcar trip from Auckland, had a profound importance in getting the tour back onto a proper basis as a sporting occasion. The Springboks arrived in the city in a state of bewilderment and resentment at the reception of the match in Auckland. They most definitely had a feeling that there was an undercurrent of hostility and resentment against them. Then they encountered Palmerston North’s fabulous welcome by a crowd of 8000 crammed into the civic square, they learned that Madgwick and his men intended to play the open game and amid some extremely cold weather and driving rain they discovered that both the welcome and the intention meant exactly what they seemed—that Palmerston North was glad to have the Springboks, now or at any time. A sore heart greatly rejoices when it encounters this sort of reception.

Madgwick, of course, was criticized, especially afterwards, for playing into the enemy’s hands. Yet I doubt that he could have done much better, even by playing the tight game; and out of a willing and consistent attempt to play open Rugby his team gained a good deal of satisfaction, as well as not a little praise. Richardson proved to be one of the finest hookers encountered by the Springboks, Carroll performed extremely valuable service in a secondary capacity in the lineout, as well in the loose, Manners made some wonderful one-handed catches in the lineouts and I was immensely taken with the play of Scholes, a lean and extraordinarily energetic flanker. The backs, too, had their moments, especially when Finlay a couple of times backed up by running outside his man and again when Freebairn, the 1953 All Black, beat van Vollenhoven to a bouncing ball and scored the first try of the match. The one genuine misfortune of Manawatu-Horowhenua’s effort was that Neill, the halfback, got slower and slower as the mud and the rain grew thicker and heavier.

On their side, the Springboks responded most cheerfully to the challenge of Madgwick’s minions and in the second half, despite the rain, a good many passing rushes were made. In one, as an instance, van der Merwe, Strydom, Retief, Howe, Montini and Nel handled before the last-named was pushed into touch—and one had to remember that the day was cold and wet and that the field was extremely heavy. Koch, returned after an absence, was something like the man we had imagined him to be, Retief played his finest game of the tour so far and de Wilzem, as at Whangarei, was a bundle of honest effort. Ackermann, on the other hand, plainly did not like the rain and the wet and moved only when he had to. A word ought to be said for de Nysschen, who was all eagerness in the lineout and loose. Behind the pack, Strydom emphasized how unfortunate Manawatu-Horowhenua was not to have a halfback of similar skill and the inside backs, Howe, Nel and Montini, each handled well and ran extremely briskly. Dryburgh began by failing with a penalty attempt of only 25 yards, but then he put one over from 40 yards, a startlingly long and fine kick in the conditions, and if one thing more than any other determined the result, it was this remarkable effort.

Freebairn scored in the twelfth minute when Donaldson punted over the goal-line with Dryburgh encased in a ruck and van Vollenhoven missed a lazy attempt to kick the ball dead. Dryburgh retaliated with his 40-yard penalty goal four minutes later and in the twenty-fifth minute placed another penalty from only 20 yards. After 12 minutes of the second half, Koch smashed through a ruck to score. Four minutes from the end, Strydom moved out to the right after picking the ball up from a scrum, hesitated most artistically and with the defence thrown onto the wrong foot darted like a hare towards the goal-line. As Shaw embraced him, Ackermann was alongside and a beautifully accurate movement of 25 or 30 yards ended in a fine try which Dryburgh turned into a goal.

The referee was Mr A. L. Fleurry, of Otago. The attendance of 22,000 broke the ground record by several thousands.”

From “THE BATTLE FOR THE RUGBY CROWN” by Terry McLean. Published 1956 by A H & A W Reed. Pp 141-3.

The teams.