VIDEO: Two key moments in Boks' 1995 triumph
IN CONVERSATION WITH THE CLASS OF ’95: Next Wednesday, June 24, will be the Silver jubilee of one of the greatest days in South African rugby.
It was the day that the Springboks edged the All Blacks 15-12 in the World Cup Final at Ellis Park – an event that was the subject of a Hollywood movie.
Historian and author Dean Allen – as part of a hugely popular weekly fund-raising effort for the Chris Burger and Petro Jackson Players Fund – chatted to four of the legends from that game.
Allen recapped the occasion in conversation with Os du Randt, Joel Stransky, Morné du Plessis and Francois Pienaar.
And the captain, Pienaar, highlighted two events he felt had the biggest impact on their march to glory.
The first was their opening match against then World Cup holders Australia at Newlands on May 25 – a match they won 27-18 in impressive fashion.
The second was the return of flying wing Chester Williams to the team, after injury ruled him out of the early stages of the tournament.
The Bok skipper, Pienaar, explained how the opening game was their ‘final’ before the Final – the most important game in many ways.
He described the win over the Wallabies in the tournament opener as South Africa’s biggest and best win in the World Cup – better even than the 15-12 win over New Zealand in the Final.
“Australia was the reigning world champions, undefeated in 12 months of Test rugby and they had a ‘rock star’ team,” Pienaar told Allen and his audience.
“They [Australia] arrived at the World Cup as the [tournament] favourites,” he said, adding: “[The favourites were] not New Zealand, as many people thought.
“We were playing against a team that was so well-oiled, confident and you [often] see the picture Pieter Hendricks with his fist raised [on his way to the tryline]. That is the money shot of the opening match.”
He said it was the brilliance of the late Kitch Christie, the mastermind coach behind the victory – the only Bok coach with a 100 percent winning record.
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“Coach [Kitch] Christie said we must give Pieter Hendricks the ball in space and he will beat [Wallaby wing David] Campese.”
Pienaar explained how Hendricks had scored 43 tries in one season in 1993 and also held the South African schools record for the 110-metre hurdles – a clear indication of his blistering pace.
“This guy was incredibly fast.
“The pass, if you go look at that play, James Small threw this incredible pass to Pieter. He got the ball with space and when he went past Campese the whole stadium exploded.”
That played a massive role in the Boks win and set them on the path to ultimate glory.
Pienaar described the involvement of the late Chester Williams as ‘bitter-sweet’.
“Chester [Williams] was the face of the World Cup,” he said of the man called the ‘Black Pearl’, whose face adorned almost every lamppost.
A month before the tournament Williams damaged his hamstring and missed out on the opening stage of the World Cup.
In fact, had it not been for the infamous Battle of Boet Erasmus – a well-documented mass brawl between South Africa and Canada during their game in Port Elizabeth, Williams may have missed out on the tournament altogether.
However, Pieter Hendricks and James Dalton were banned for their roles in the Boet Erasmus brawl, opening they way for Williams and Naka Drotske to be called into the squad.
“That is the biggest disappointment for me from the World Cup,” Pienaar said, adding: “We always wanted to be disciplined.
“We were 20-0 up, they [Canada] were physical, then a scuffled broke out that turned into a big fight.
“I probably had my worst week as a captain that next week.
“I sulked, I moped, I was angry.
“Coach [Christie] sat me down on the Thursday and said, are we going to put this show back on the road.
“I asked Chester to share with us what is happening in South Africa. He [Williams] shared with us the difference in South Africa, how the people are [now] supporting the team – with more and more people shouting ‘Springboks, Springboks’, when they were not doing it before.
“And he [Williams] went on to score four tries against Samoa [in the quarterfinal].
“What an incredible achievement.”
Also worth reading …
IN CONVERSATION WITH JOHN SMIT – Part Two
IN CONVERSATION WITH JOHN SMIT – Part One
IN CONVERSATION WITH BRYAN HABANA – Part Two
IN CONVERSATION WITH BRYAN HABANA – Part One
IN CONVERSATION WITH SCHALK BURGER
IN CONVERSATION WITH JEAN DE VILLIERS