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Bon voyage Newlands: Five great occasions - Part One

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 first of a series – takes a look at five of the greatest occasions at the venue.


Newlands. How my soul aches at what is being done to Newlands! A wonderful part of life is shrivelling away.

Newlands is not a suburb, the way Rondebosch and Claremont on either side of it are suburbs. In summer Newlands is where heroes play cricket and in winter Newlands is where heroes play rugby.

That’s how it used to be for the 130 years – at least in winter. But now after having the life of club rugby squeezed out of it, the winter part, the rugby, is to be destroyed.

There will be no chance for heroes to kiss the grand old lady goodbye. There will just be destruction and then nothing. There will be no funeral bells, just the wrecker’s ball. It is as if the coronavirus has had the last choking laugh.

We could make some sort of tombstone

Here Lies Newlands
Born: 31 May 1890
Died: 2020
Deeply mourned by thousands who loved her.

All that will be left will be memories – the memories of those who were there.

To unlock a few of those memories, we have picked on five matches. We? Morné du Plessis, Jan de Koning and Paul Dobson


We are not going back to that day in 1890 when Villagers played Stellenbosch, or to that day in 1891 when the first Test match was played or 1896 when South African first won a Test match or to 1903 when South Africa first won a series and on and on through the exciting years to 2020.

We have chosen five matches all within living memory – 1949, 1976, 1980, 1986 and 1995.

(Continue reading below … )

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16 July 1949: South Africa v New Zealand.

It was the first Test after World War II and rugby fever gripped the Western Cape. The Springboks team was made up of 15 new caps – the first time since 1891. The opposition were South Africa’s greatest rivals – the New Zealand All Blacks. It was the 12th match of a 25-match tour that was followed with wide-eyed attention as it wandered the land.

People queued through the night. Newlands was packed and the gates were closed. Some would-be fans broke down a fence, but still they could not see. They found long ladders and climbed onto the roof of the Malay Stand. policeman went onto the roof as well and fought the intruders off.

Then Fred Allen led his All Blacks out.


Then – oh glory – Felix du Plessis, big, broad man, led his Springboks onto the field. Both had played in Italy during the World War II, though not against each other. This was when Allen was a soldier and Du Plessis in the South African Air Force.

Referee Eddie Hofmeyr blew the starting whistle and Floors Duvenage, centre and vice-captain, kicked off the “wrong” way and set the Springboks on the attack. Jack van der Schyff missed a penalty kick at goal and then the All Blacks got on top, their forwards standing up to the big Springboks and their backs more enterprising – strong Ron Elvidge at centre and fast in Peter Henderson on the wing.

The crowd grew quieter and quieter still when Bob Scott kicked a penalty goal and even quieter when Henderson charged down a clearing kick by Van der Schyff and scored a try. Scott converted. 8-0 after 19 minutes.

The Springboks had missed four penalty kicks at goal and Du Plessis and Hannes Brewis were debating who should take the next kick. The ball rolled to the feet of burly prop Okey Geffin. Geffin knelt, placed the ball and kicked the penalty goal to make the score 8-3.

Just before the break, from a scrum, Laurie Savage passed back to Jim Kearney who dropped a goal. 11-3


A quiet half-time.

Then came the second half, during which, New Zealand did not score again. But Geffin did and, as he did, gloom and doom were lifted and then exploded.

Geffin kicked a penalty goal. 11-6.

Geffin kicked a penalty goal. 11-9, and now excitement was soaring.

Henderson ran for the corner, but Van der Schyff nudged him out.

Then there was a scrum at which the All Blacks were penalised. Geffin placed the ball, paced back and hitched his short up his armpits. With deliberate tread he came straight forward and kicked the ball, toe first, between the uprights and it was 12-9 to the Springboks.

Throw things in the air. Policemen lying on the touchline were on their feet, throwing their helmets in the air and doing somersaults.

Newlands had never known such runaway excitement.

The All Blacks attacked with might and main, but Scott missed a penalty which could have given them the lead and then Tjol Lategan broker and grubbered ahead. Cecil Moss and Eric Boggs raced after the bal. Moss was ahead and, when he stooped to pick up the ball, Boggs pulled him back and was penalised.


There was a bit of time left, but the Springboks held out.

The Springboks won. The final whistle was a signal for the crowd to race onto the field to carry off their heroes.


For South Africa:
Pens: Geffin 5 (a world record at the time)

For New Zealand
Try: Henderson
Con: Scott
Drop: Kearney
Pen: Kearney


South Africa: JH van der Schyff, FP Marais, MT Lategan, FP Duvenage, C Moss, JD Brfewis, JJ Wahl, HV Muller, LJ Strydom, BS van der Merwe, F du Plessis (captain), HV Koch, AO Geffin, RP Jordaan, XV van Jaarsveld.

New Zealand: RWH Scott, EG Boggs, FR Allen (captain), RR Elvidge, P Henderson, JC Kearney, LT Savage, NH Thornton, JR McNab, LA Grant, LR Harvey, C Willocks, JG Simpson, EH Catley, KL Skinner.

Referee: EWN Hofmeyr

New Zealand was not happy with the refereeing. In 1994 John Gainsford, the great Springbok centre of the 1960s, spoke to a New Zealand audience and said: “When you come to us, we cheat you and beat you. And when we come to you, you cheat us and beat us.” He was not being serious!

I have watched Tests in South Africa, England, Wales, Scotland, France, Italy, Canada, Argentina and New Zealand. I have never seen one as exciting and memorable as that first Test in 1949. It is astonishing how excitement can carry you tirelessly along. I, 13 years old, skipped the mile or so up to Plumstead station on my own, caught a train to Rondebosch and walked down to join the scholars queue a long way back from the gate. I got there at half past two on a winter’s morning. Felix du Plessis sat on my neck when he was being carried off. Eventually I got home, dishevelled but not in the least tired as my mother hugged me with joy. The Springboks had won.

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