03 September 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld

GOLDEN SPRINGBOK MOMENTS – RWC 95

The Springboks have enjoyed many magical moments on the biggest stage of them all since they shook up the world in their triumphant maiden appearance in the global showpiece in 1995, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

As excitement continues to build for the 2019 Rugby World Cup that kicks off in Japan on September 20, we take a trip down memory lane in a six-part series in which we highlight the Springboks‘ most memorable World Cup moments.

While the glorious run of Jake White’s team in France in 2007 was spectacular in its own right, nothing will ever eclipse Kitch Christie’s charges’ transcended triumph on home soil in 1995. Fuelled by Madiba magic, Francois Pienaar and his underdog team did the unthinkable as they claimed the crown and united a nation.

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Hendriks leaves Campese for dead

No-one gave the Springboks a chance in the tournament opener against the defending champions. South Africa were still forging a new rugby identity and building a squad post-isolation, while Australia boasted a settled, star-studded side. David Campese was chief among the Australian superstars – a legend who had seen and done it all. Pieter Hendriks, like most of the Springbok squad who would go on to become immortals, was unheralded at the time.

The first 30 minutes of the match went as expected, with the Wallabies dominating proceedings at Newlands. Then came the very first golden Springbok World Cup moment – a sweeping play from right to left. Centre Japie Mulder threw a crucial cut out pass to No.14 James Small who found Hendriks with a well-timed pass.

The bulky left-wing stepped beautifully off the right foot to leave Campese for dead and score South Africa’s first five-pointer in the global showpiece – an iconic try that flipped the match on its head. The Springboks won 27-18, phenomenally kick-starting their campaign.

ChesterMania is born

Not named in the original squad, Chester Williams was called up after Hendriks had been red-carded and subsequently suspended for the remainder of the tournament for his role in the infamous Battle of Boet Erasmus. Williams seized the opportunity and scored four tries on debut in the 42-14 quarterfinal win over Samoa at Ellis Park. The flyer instantly became a national hero and as the only black player in the team, he was one of the key role-players in uniting the nation.

Joost stops Lomu in his tracks

Jonah Lomu had left a trail of bodies in his wake heading into the final. The All Blacks behemoth was an athlete unlike any the game had ever seen and took the tournament by storm. With incredible pace and power, the big wing was an unstoppable force.

Will the Springboks be able to stop the freak of nature? That was the big question in the week leading up to the decider. The inspired hosts indeed managed to derail the freight-train with a spirited collective team effort, but it was scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen’s now-legendary tackle on Lomu that set the tone.

Stransky's drop-goal for the ages

In what will forever be the greatest highlight in South African rugby history, Joel Stransky’s drop-goal sealed the unlikeliest and most thrilling of victories in World Cup history. Had the score stayed 12-all, the All Blacks would’ve been crowned champions due to their superior disciplinary record in the competition.

The Springbok flyhalf had held his nerve throughout the tense encounter, slotting three penalties to take the game into extra time and a fourth to level the scores again heading into the final half of extra time. Cancelling a planned blindside move from a scrum just outside of the All Blacks’ 22, Stransky fell back into the pocket and slotted a majestic drop. The Springboks held on to claim a famous 15-12 win and with that, a nation was united.

Mandela and Pienaar's crowning moment of racial reconciliation

There will never be a more powerful image in the history of the game than when iconic South African president Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok jersey, presented the Webb Ellis Cup to Springbok captain Francois Pienaar following the thrilling final at Ellis Park.

By donning the jersey, seen as a symbol of privilege and division by black South Africans, Madiba scorned that reputation in the minds of many in a nation-building moment that’ll forever be remembered as one of the most pivotal moments in the country’s history.

That crowning moment, and the tournament’s transcended role in racial reconciliation was summed up best by the Nobel Peace Prize winner himself in 2006 when he said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”

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