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Bon voyage Newlands: Five great occasions - when David beat Goliath

SPOTLIGHT: The grande dame that is the Newlands stadium may already have hosted her last-ever rugby match.


Acclaimed @rugby365com writer Paul Dobson – in the second of his series – takes a look at five of the greatest occasions at the venue.

Here he looks at the day when David beat Goliath – Western Province upsetting New Zealand on 17 July 1976.

One of the very greatest heroes of rugby at Newlands is Morné du Plessis. He played in 112 matches for Western Province from 1970 to 1980 and 22 Tests for South Africa from 1971 to 1980, captaining both, a captain to whom players were fiercely loyal. He chose this match in 1976 as one of the best.

There is a link with the previous match we chose, the first Test in 1949. Morné was there but did not see it. When his father Felix ran out onto Newlands as the Springbok captain, Morné’s mother, Pat, who captained the South African women’s hickey side five years later, was sitting in the stand, six months pregnant with Morné.

Morné chose two matches at Newlands in his illustrious career as the outstanding ones at Newlands where he played for club, province and country – this one in 1976, the next in 1980.

He captained the Springboks in all four Tests against Andy Leslie’s All Blacks and he captained Western Province in this thrilling match. Not only was he the Province captain, but also the team’s coach.


(Continue reading below … )

17 July 1976: Western Province v New Zealand

It’s the score at the final whistle that counts, and in this case, it was a surprise score. After all, the team playing Western Province was the mighty All Blacks, who had won their previous 28 matches, and, with 19 minutes to go, had a comfortable 11-0 lead. They lost. It was a thrilling experience for the crowd of over 45 000 packed into the great ground.

For the All Blacks this was the sixth match of their 24-match tour and their second match at Newlands. On the previous Saturday they had played the mixed-race Invitation XV, captained by Carel Fourie, and won 31-24. They had been down 10-3 at half-time and won that match. Against Western Province, they were ahead at half-time and lost. And they lost because of two conversions by Robbie Blair who had missed scoring from no fewer than eight penalty kicks at goal but repaid captain Morné du Plessis’s faith in him with a conversion that really counted.

There was just one score in the first half – a penalty goal by Laurie Mains, but it was certainly a half with lots of action and characterised by a great performance by the Western Province loose trio of Jan Boland Coetzee, Piet Veldsman and Du Plessis who ruled the lineouts.


The All Blacks scored tries in the second half, the first by wing Lyn Jaffray, the second by flyhalf Duncan Robertson when the All Blacks counterattacked from within their half and four passes later Robertson received from Andy Leslie and was over in a comfortable position for the conversion. Neither try was converted but the All Blacks led 11-0 with just 19 minutes to play.

At a ruck, the referee penalised Ken Stewart. The All Blacks voiced complaints and the referee marched them 10 yards. Lively Divan Serfontein ran up, tapped and darted ahead. He kicked ahead to just short of the All Blacks line where lock Gary Seear tried to catch the flying ball. It hit Seear’s chest and bounced forward. Powerful wing Bossie Clarke dived at the ball, caught it before it hit the ground and landed over the goal-line as Robertson and Grant Batty tried to stop him.

Blair lined up kick number 9. It was from the touchline on his left, the less favourite side for a left-footer. He goaled it. 11-6 with 13 minutes to play.

There were just two minutes left. Western Province stole another All Black lineout. They went right. As he was tackled, right wing Chris Pope passed to left wing Clarke. Clarke passed but Batty attempted an intercept. He could not get hold of the ball which bounced ahead to Dawie Snyman. The fullback picked up, sidestepped, ran and fed the galloping Du Plessis close on his right. Du Plessis charged on and then passed a perfect pass inside to Pope. The powerful wing raced for the line and dived over in Bryan Williams’s tackle.



From just in from touch, on his preferred side, Blair kicked. The ball flew high and true and OVER. 12-11 with one minute plus injury time to play. The All Blacks threw everything at Province while every spectator gave full voice in excitement. The defence held. The final whistle went.

What a match! What drama!

Just a last word, well worth recording. In his book on the tour, Sir Terry McLean (knighted for his rugby writings), write: “Newlands is pretty nearly a perfect ground for rugby. Spectators are close to the touchlines, Visibility is excellent, the mood becomes rapturous.”

Soon they will be pulling it down.


For Western Province:
Tries: Clarke, Pope
Cons: Blair 2

For New Zealand:
Tries: Jaffray, Robertson
Pen: Mains


Western Province: Dawie Snyman, Chris Pope, Peter Whipp Johan Oosthuizen (replaced by Ivan Ortlepp in the second half), Bossie Clarke, Robbie Blair, Divan Serfontein, Morné du Plessis (captain), Piet Veldsman, Boland Coetzee, Butch Deuchar, Kobus Immelman, Doug Mather, Robert Cockrell, Derek van den Bergh

New Zealand: Laurie Mains, Grant Batty, Bill Osborne, Bryan Williams, Lyn Jaffray, Duncan Robertson, Sid Going (replaced by Lyn Davis after 64 minutes), Andy Leslie (captain), Ken Stewart, Ian Kirkpatrick, Hamish Macdonald, Gary Seear, Brad Johnstone, Tane Norton, Kent Lambert.

NB Replacements were allowed only for injuries.

Referee: Fonnie van der Vyver

*** Help for this came from Morné du Plessis, Peter Whipp, Dawie Snyman and Bossie Clarke.

Previous episodes:

Part One – 1949

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