The sad spirit of '64 lives on

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

15 November 2017 - 07:43 By Archie Henderson
Coach Allister Coetzee.
Coach Allister Coetzee.

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When we noticed that the channel's regular - and engaging - rugby interlocutor had been replaced by an insipid stand-in, it was clear there would be trouble.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 Lazarus-like comeback.