Port Elizabeth has a deserved reputation for warmth and hospitality‚ but when it comes to Test rugby‚ the Springboks don’t show visitors any of those traits in the Eastern Cape’s first city.
In 29 Tests played in PE since 1891‚ the Boks have only lost four‚ and three of those defeats came in their first three outings against Britain in 1891‚ 1896 and 1910.
In the last 106 years the Boks have only lost once in 26 Tests in PE‚ played at the Crusaders Club‚ Boet Erasmus Stadium and the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium respectively.
The Boks’ average winning score in PE is 21-9 and they average three tries to one of the visitors. Most fans would take that against Ireland on Saturday.
The Irish are on the brink of history if they win and claim the three-Test series 2-1 after victory at Newlands and a narrow loss at Ellis Park. At sea level though‚ they couldn’t be in a tougher venue or city.
The Boks played Test rugby in PE at the rudimentary Crusaders club from 1891 to 1955 before moving to the Boet Erasmus stadium in Port Elizabeth’s south side where they were nearly invincible.
Today ‘the Boet’ is a collection of weeds‚ rusting metal and crumbling cement more reminiscent of a war zone than a proud Test rugby venue.
But for half a century it was a Springbok fortress that witnessed some incredible skirmishes such as the infamous scrap against Canada in the 1995 World Cup and the crunch third Test against the All Black in 1970. The Boks won both but not without collateral damage.
Bok hooker James Dalton and wing Pieter Hendricks played their last matches of the World Cup during that 20-0 win over the tough Canadians. Both players were ejected from the tournament in a harsh application of the rules after a collective punch up.
The Boks played 16 Tests at Boet Erasmus‚ won 14‚ lost one and drew one. It was a proud record.
Their single loss‚ against the rampant 1974 British and Irish Lions‚ occurred in the third Test of that four match series and their only defeat in the last century in PE.
The Lions smashed the Boks 26-9 to clinch a first ever series win in SA. It was also the last time the Springboks lost in Port Elizabeth.
There was a vast gulf between the 1974 Lions and their Springbok contemporaries‚ which was painfully highlighted that day.
In fact‚ it remains the last time the Springboks lost in Port Elizabeth even after Test rugby north across town to the magnificent Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in the blue-collar suburb of North End.
Since that defeat to the Lions the Boks have won 11 and drawn one of 12 Tests played in the windy city in the last 42 years.
Fittingly‚ the All Blacks were the Springboks’ first opponents at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in 2011 and the Boks‚ spearheaded by six penalties from flyhalf Morné Steyn and an heroic defensive effort‚ won 18-5.
Steyn is on the bench against Ireland in the deciding third Test and his accuracy from the tee could be crucial if the match goes down to the wire in the closing stages.
Since then the Boks drew 14-14 with England in the dead rubber third Test of their 2012 series and crushed Scotland 55-6 in 2014.
The Boks not only have the series against Ireland to play for‚ but also for their proud history in Port Elizabeth.
— TMG Digital