Bon voyage Newlands: First Steps of the Baby Nation
SPOTLIGHT: The grande dame that is the Newlands stadium may already have hosted her last-ever rugby match.
Acclaimed @rugby365com writer Paul Dobson – in the fifth and final episode of his series – takes a look at the opening match of the 1995 World Cup – between South Africa and Australia.
Hope went soaring this May afternoon at Newlands. What happened was gloriously astonishing for the new nation. That it happened at all was astonishing.
The result was the juiciest of cherries on the top. Not only did it happen but it gave the Rainbow Nation a month of rejoicing till the clashing crescendo of the Final at Ellis Park – and there was a new South Africa, bright, happy and colourful.
That opening match at Newlands set the tone for the Springbok campaign.
The whole of South Africa owned the Springboks. This match said that. The way the crowd welcomed Nelson Mandela and watch the crowd at the final whistle. This was a new South Africa, and it looked good.
South Africa had not been to the 1987 World Cup in New Zealand or the 1991 World Cup in Europe because of international opposition to apartheid.
But then South Africa handed off apartheid and was back in international rugby’s fold in 1992 with matches home and away and the International Rugby Board’s decision to give South Africa the right to host the 995 Rugby World Cup.
(Continue reading below … )
25 May 1995: South Africa v Australia
Australia came to South Africa as World Champions from 1991, seeded No.1 for the 1995 World Cup, while South Africa were ceded No.9. Australia had won all eight of their matches in 1994 while South Africa had played nine Tests, winning five, drawing one and losing three.
For the opening match of the 1995 World Cup, champions played hosts, one played nine. There was a vast difference in experience between the two starting XVs. Australia’s XV had a total of 459 caps to South Africa’s 124.
Unsurprisingly the Wallabies were the favourites.
Before the match, there was a lively, relaxed, colourful, cheerful pageant arranged by Merle McKenna. It pleased the crowd, a visual introduction to the world of the new South Africa.
Nelson Mandela, in his second year as president of the Republic of South Africa arrived and the crowd chanted his name – Nelson, Nelson, Nelson. And they waved the new South African flag, first used just over a year before. Apartheid seemed to have vanished.
South Africa won the toss and played from north to south. Welshman Derek Bevan blew the whistle, Michael Lynagh kicked off and the crowd became involved. Even a scrum awarded to South Africa was greeted as if the Springboks had scored a try.
There were penalties by Michael Lynagh and Joel Stransky. Lynagh scored first for Australia to lead 3-0 after three minutes, but the Springboks led 9-6 and then came the first try as the Wallabies laid vigorous siege to the Springbok line, attacking in waves, till they went left, and Lynagh dummied and scored a try which he converted. 13-9 after 33 minutes.
The lead did not last long, for it was soon the Springboks’ turn to hammer are the Wallaby goal. Pushed back the Springboks got the ball back wide out on their right when James Dalton was brought to ground. The Springboks went wide left. Japie Mulder threw a long skip-pass to right wing James Small, who gave to left wing Pieter Hendriks who swerved around a floundering David Campese, brandished a triumphant fist and scored the try that gave the home side a 14-13 lead at half-time.
The Wallabies did not get their lead back in this match as Stransky kicked a penalty and then a drop to make it 20-13 after 47 minutes.
South Africa attacked with determination. Dalton was ruled to have lost the ball over the line and the attacking continued and so did brave defending, till a failed drop attempt led to the Springboks’ second try.
Stransky dropped at goal. An Australian hand made contact with the ball which went over the Australian dead-ball line.
Five-metre scrum to South Africa.
Off the back of the scrum, Rudolf Straeuli passed right to Joost van der Westhuizen who turned and gave a close pass to Stransky who burst past Tim Gavin’s tackled to score near the posts. He converted his own try. 27-13 with 17 minutes to play.
Now it was Australia’s turn to throw everything at the Springboks, pounding at the line. Eventually it was a long Lynagh pass to hooker Phil Kearns out on the left wing that sent Kearns over for a try. 27-18. Lynagh missed the fairly easy conversion which probably robbed the Wallabies of the hope of a draw.
When Hendriks tackled fullback Matthew Pini into touch, the final whistle went – a signal to the crowd to run shouting for joy onto the ground. They had played their part and joined their heroes in shared joy.
The rainbow had never shone as brightly on South Africa’s Springboks as it did that day at Newlands.
And there was still Ellis Park to come in a month’s time.
For South Africa:
Tries: Hendriks, Stransky
Pens: Stransky 4
Tries: Lynagh, Kearns
Pens: Lynagh 2
***NB: Stransky scored 22 points and he scored them in all of the four ways it is possible to score at rugby foorball.
South Africa: 15 AJ Joubert, 44 JT Small, 13 JC Mulder, 12 HP le Roux, 11 P Hendriks, 10 JT Stransky, 9 JH van der Westhuizen, 8 RAW Straeuli, 7 RJ Kruger, 6 JF Pienaar (captain), 5 JJ Strydom, 4 MG Andrews, 3 ISdeV Swart (replaced by GL Pagel), 2 J Dalton, 1 JP du Randt
Replacements: 16 GL Pagel, 17 JP Roux, 18 B Venter, 19 GK Johnson, 20 CleC Rossouw, 21 K Otto
Australia: 15 MJ Pini, 14 DI Campese, 13 DJ Herbert, 12 JS Little, 11 DP Smith, 10 MP Lynagh (captain), 9 GM Gregan, 8 BT Gavin, 7 DJ Wilson, 6 V Ofahengaue, 5 JA Eales, 4 RJ McCall, 3 EJA McKenzie, 2 PN Kearns, 1 DJ Crowley
Replacements: 16 MC Burke, 17 S Bowen, 18 PJ Slattery, 19 T Coker, 20 MN Hartill, 21 MA Foley
Referee: Derek Bevan (Wales)