|World Cup final 2007
||The English media, and in particular the
tabloids, who are perhaps run by soccer people who dont understand that a foot on
the line is out in rugby, made a massive fuss about the one memorable incident of an
otherwise drab 2007 World Cup final.
The Springboks won it comfortably enough, 15-6,
and always looked in control, but could have been in trouble at the start of the second
half were it not for a bit of defensive magic from eventual man of the match, Victor
Rare miscommunication in the Bok backline defence had allowed Matthew Tait, the England
centre, to break clear. He surged through a few more missed tackles and looked like he
could score himself but Matfields desperate tackle brought him to ground. But the
move did not end there, and the ball found its way to England wing, Marc Cueto, who dived
for the corner.
The whole of South Africa and the entire England rugby supporting public would have
held their breath in the next few suspenseful minutes as referee Alain Rolland consulted
with TMO Stuart Dickinson, the Australian referee South Africans had grown over the years
to loathe. But Dickinson got this one right, Cuetos foot had indeed touched the
line, and the try was disallowed. Had it been scored, the Boks might have been in trouble
as although never by much, they had always been comfortably ahead in the game, and a
converted try then would have seen them fall behind.
|John Smit and
the president parade the trophy
|World Cup final 2007
||Compared to 12 years earlier, when
Francois Pienaar held aloft the William Webb Ellis trophy to such celebratory fanfare, the
immediate aftermath of the 2007 final might have seemed a bit anti-climactic to neutrals,
but it was hugely emotional to those of us who were at Stade de France.
All day the
streets of Paris had been choked with white clad England supporters who had hurried across
the Channel when they knew that England had made the final. Suddenly the whitewash they
suffered at the hands of the Springboks earlier in the tournament seemed to have been
forgotten it was all about Jonny Wilkinson, how he was the king, and how England
were going to retain the World Cup.
Unlike in the Pool game over a month before, the Springboks never ran away with it
it was a tight final, and although the Boks always seemed to be in control and were
just keeping England at arms-length, England still had a chance of winning it right up
until the last minutes. It was when those last minutes arrived that the count-down began
among South African fans five minutes, four minutes, three minutes
and then the hugging down on the field between elated and emotional
players and management and the hugging in the stands between supporters and, yes, even
some of the South African media.
The then President of our country, Thabo Mbeki, made his way onto the field, and like
Madiba had in 1995, he joined the team in their celebrations and got to hold the trophy as
the mournful England supporters slunk away. It was one of those rare occasions as a rugby
journalist when I was so choked with emotion that it was hard to start working, and the
celebrations that started at the final whistle lasted long into the Paris night.
|World Cup final 1995
||For many the most memorable vignette
from the opening game of the World Cup opening game in 1995 will be of Springbok left wing
Pieter Hendricks wagging his finger in delight as he rounded David Campese for the first
try of the tournament. It was a memorable moment, but for those who were there on that
clear May day at Newlands nothing surpassed the emotion and passion that attended the
crowd reaction to the arrival on the field of the great man himself, Nelson Mandela.
countrys first democratically elected president had played a big role in securing
the World Cup for South Africa and the drive towards the nation building that was such a
big part of the tournament arguably started as he walked out onto the field to the echoing
chants from the terraces Nelson, Nelson, Nelson, Nelson!!!
It was indeed a heady and an emotional moment for all South Africans, as was the entire
opening ceremony, which went off without a hitch and was a credit to the Rainbow Nation
which it had as its theme. And oh yes, the Springboks played their part in making the day
even more memorable they came to the party in a big way by beating the reigning
champions, Australia, and thus announcing themselves as challengers for the trophy as they
embarked on the low road that coach Kitch Christie had spoken so much about.
|The PE fracas
|Pool game, 1995
||The Pool match against Canada in Port
Elizabeth was always going to be one the Springboks would just be looking to get through,
and you could tell that was their attitude as they ground it out against a Canadian team
that had won a lot of fans in the Eastern Cape before that for their spirited rugby.
match started in somewhat controversial circumstances 45 minutes late in fact
because of a cable blowing in the floodlighting. For a long time fans might have
been wondering why they bothered to put the lighting on, for it was a forgettable game
from a rugby viewpoint, and might have been a forgettable game all round were it not for
the fracas towards the end that it will forever be remembered for.
The Springboks were leading 20-0 with 10 minutes to go when all hell broke loose,
something that had been brewing throughout a contest where there was a lot of red mist
hanging around both teams. It was started by a Pieter Hendriks challenge on Canadian wing
Winston Stanley, but the real cause of what followed was Canadas fullback Scott
Stewart, who aggressively charged into Hendriks.
Springbok hooker James Dalton came flying in, he would later claim that he wanted to
break the fight up, and punches were flying everywhere. Anyone could have been sent off,
but Dalton had been closest to referee David McHugh when the brawl started, and he was
given his marching orders along with Canada prop Rod Snow and his captain Gareth Rees.
Hendriks and Stewart were also both sanctioned with suspension from the game in
disciplinary hearings carried out subsequent to the game.
drop that won it
|World Cup final 1995
||The 1995 World Cup final will not be
remembered for great attacking movements but for the unbearable tension that enveloped the
entire 80 minutes and then the extra 20 of extra time, with neither the All Blacks or
Springboks agreeing to give until the moment that sent South Africa into a month of wild
With the scores deadlocked at 12-all, the Springboks needed to score to win
the World Cup as the rules of the tournament in those days decreed that the winners would
be the side that boasted the best disciplinary record in the event of a draw after extra
time. James Dalton had been red carded after the infamous battle in Port Elizabeth much
earlier in the tournament, while the All Blacks had not had anyone carded.
It was with six minutes to go that the Springboks had the benefit of a scrum put in. It
wasnt far out from the All Black 22, it was in the perfect position for a drop goal,
something Joel Stransky had used effectively to win a warm-up game against Western
Province in the build-up stage to the World Cup. The first scrum wheeled and had to be
reset, but this time the Springbok scrum, so solid throughout the World Cup, got it right
as Joost van der Westhuizen was able to clear comfortably for Stransky, who looked as
though he knew he had slotted it the moment his toe touched the ball.
He was later to say that he had never struck a ball so sweetly in his life. Until Jonny
Wilkinson did a similar thing in a World Cup final eight years later, this was the most
talked about drop-goal of all time. The Boks had to see out the remaining minutes of the
game, six of them, but somehow everyone just knew when the ball went through the posts
that this was the clincher the Boks had won the World Cup.
moment of genius
|World Cup final 1995
||There were many great things that
Francois Pienaar did as a captain on the field, but it was his public relations genius off
it, his ability to say the right thing at the right time, that he will probably be best
remembered for. And his television interview after the final whistle of the 1995 World Cup
final, broadcast live around the world as well as to those inside the stadium, will
forever be remembered as a stand-out moment in the Springbok nation building success of
No David, it was not for 60 000 but for 43-million, were
Pienaars words, or thereabouts, with the David referred to being the man who was
interviewing him, David van der Sandt.
Pienaars words were an accurate summation of what was happening outside the
stadium, with people emptying the houses and pubs around the country to go into the
streets to celebrate the Bok triumph. Inside Ellis Park it was also pandemonium, with
Pienaar leading his team in that famous prayer straight after the final whistle that was
televised around the world. Earlier in the day of course, before the opening whistle,
Nelson Mandela had appeared on the field wearing a Springbok jersey with Pienaars
No6 on the back.
|World Cup final 2003
||As Rugby World Cup finals go, the one
that was most similar to the stand-off between Australia and England in Sydney in 2003 was
the epic 1995 match in Johannesburg. But there were some crucial differences there
was a try scored in the 2003 match, and when Jonny Wilkinson dropped the goal that won the
match, there were only 26 seconds left, and not six minutes.
So it was effectively the
last move of a great World Cup tournament which went into extra time and was less than
half a minute away from what would have been the first drop-off in World Cup
rugby history. It came at the end of a game of nip and tuck, with neither team really
gaining any ascendancy on the scoreboard though England were clearly the superior team
and South African referee Andre Watson received a bit of a pasting from the English
media for being too lenient on Australia, who for most of the way were just hanging in.
Unlike Stranskys eight years earlier, the Wilkinson drop was one you could see
coming. The England flyhalf had a penchant in those days of putting over drop kicks, and
as the England pack drove towards the Australian posts, there was no doubt about what they
were trying to do, although Matt Dawson did try one break before Martin Johnson finally
took the ball up one last time, just in front of the posts, to set Wilkinson up perfectly
for the fairytale finish to a glorious period for English rugby.
|Jannie de Beers
boot of God
||Poor Jannie de Beer was only trying to
thank his creator for the talents he was blessed with, but the international media,
particularly the English section that remembered Maradonas Hand of God
goal against their country at the 1986 Soccer World Cup, were quick to seize upon the
flyhalfs words and turn it into a sensational headline.
And while it may not have
been what De Beer intended, his feats that day were deserving of the fuss. Five drop-goals
in one match, a World Cup quarterfinal at that, was unheard of, but De Beer, playing
behind a pack that became more ascendant the longer the game lasted, just kept slotting
them over during a second half that became progressively more nightmarish for England.
The match was played at Stade de France, the scene of one of the greatest triumphs in
Springbok history eight years later, and as you might suspect, a lot of the French fans
present were supporting South Africa. But there was also a large army of England fans that
had made its way across the English Channel with great expectations, for up to that point
the Springboks had mounted a decidedly mediocre defence of the World Cup they had won four
England were well in it as South Africa led 16-12 at the break, but De Beer slotted his
first drop seven minutes after the restart and then just kept doing it as the South
Africans went further and further ahead, eventually well and truly dousing any vocal
support from the England supporters. De Beer scored 34 points in a 44-21 victory for his