JOHANNESBURG – There was an uncouth savagery to the All Blacks’ Tour of South Africa in 1970.
As early as the fourth minute in the first Test, the inaugural match between the two nations at Loftus Versfeld, Frik du Preez put in a fierce tackle - immortalised by photographer Wessel Oosthuizen - on Chris Laidlaw.
The Springbok flanker launched himself into the No 9, wrapping his burly hands around the maw of the All Blacks scrumhalf, while fellow loosie Albie Bates clung onto Laidlaw’s feet, together smashing him to the ground and leaving the half-back concussed.
The tackle, a red-card and post-match sanctionable offence in the modern game, led to the first Bok try by Dawie de Villiers, and Laidlow’s continued discombobulation in the opening half, afforded the South Africans a significant, albeit unfair, advantage.
But, it was not the only assault that day. Another famous tackle, this one by Joggie Jensen on Wayne Cottrell is also recalled fondly.
Jensen, then 22-years-old and enjoying his first Test series, flattened the opposing centre as the All Blacks moved the ball from their scrum, leaving Cottrell prostrate on the field “as effectively as if he had been run over by a truck”.
The Bok onslaught in Pretoria was ferocious, leaving the touring team in shambles, rattled and breaking ranks. The final outcome, a 17-6 victory to the Boks was significant, as much as it was confounding. At the time no-one had given the South Africans a chance of beating the New Zealanders - the All Blacks of that period, after all, had been Christened ‘The Invincibles’ after going unbeaten in 17 matches.
“The All Blacks’ (unbeaten) record stretching over five years,” journalist Chris Greyvenstein recalled some time afterwards, “all helped to build them into giants surrounded by an aura of almost mystical invincibility and hardly any hope was held out for the Springboks ...”
Strange, that almost fifty years later, it sounds all so familiar and relatable. To this day, that triumph at Loftus Versfeld remains the only victory out of five Tests for the Boks over the Old Enemy.
It is a statistic that stupefies all South African rugby supporters and the results between the two at the ground makes for some ugly reading. In 1996 the All Blacks won 33-26, in ‘99 34-18, 2003 they shattered the Boks 52-12 and three years later 45-26.
Tomorrow the Boks must rectify this record and to do so they must invoke a similar fierceness shown in 1970.
The recent triumph in Wellington, euphoric, beautiful and unforgiving as it was, will count for little if such ruthlessness cannot be replicated on home soil. Indeed, it must be coach Rassie Erasmus’ continued conviction that his side complete all their home games in this Rugby Championship as victors.
Ultimately, all great teams must first build a foundation at home, if they are to project power and superiority abroad.
Thus far the Boks have achieved this objective, beating Argentina and Australia on our hallowed soil. Beating the All Blacks at home for the first time since 2014, will go a long way - as did the recent victory in Wellington - in continuing the upward trend of the Bok brand and repeating the warning to the rugby world that this is our turf.
Tomorrow, the All Blacks’ Loftus hoodoo must be undone and instead become a powerful reminder that the Boks are truly back.