Springboks 1995 heroes: Where are they now
SPOTLIGHT: June 24! 25 years ago went down in World Cup history as the day South Africa partied like never before. Rugbypass writer Liam Heagney reports
The self-styled Rainbow Nation won its first World Cup and a country that had been shattered and divided for far too long by apartheid was celebrating as one after a drop goal from Joel Stransky made all the difference in extra-time in the final versus New Zealand.
South Africa’s skipper Francois Pienaar wasn’t supposed to be lifting the trophy at World Cup 1995. The Springboks’ isolation on the international stage had only ended two years earlier and it was felt that they would have too much to do to bridge the gap following their return.
However, a campaign that began with a win over defending champions Australia and continued with further victories over Romania, Canada, Samoa and France boiled down to one edge-of-seat afternoon in Johannesburg where a try-less final ended deadlocked at 9-all after 80 minutes.
South African boss Kitch Christie – who sadly passed away with leukaemia in 1998 – had it drilled into his charges that they would be the fitter team and so it proved, the cup eventually grasped by the host country thanks to the boot of Stransky in a showpiece that tipped their way 15-12 after 100 minutes of battle.
Cue a celebratory explosion of joy and that iconic image of a beaming Nelson Mandela handing the trophy over to a thrilled Pienaar.
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The sense of wonder may have been dulled some years later by what happened between SA Rugby and the government, a legacy touched on in the brilliant bird’s eye recall of the finals by Edward Griffiths, the then CEO of the sport in the country, in a riveting recent RugbyPass interview.
However, nothing can diminish the iconic moment in time that was South Africa defeating New Zealand in a compelling final that is now 25 years old.
Read as we take a step back in time to discover what became of that South Africa team, the last Springboks XV of the old amateur era as the sport soon turned professional within months.
Where are they now
15. Andre Joubert
The final was nearly the halfway house in the silky full-back’s Test career, his 16th appearance in a 34-cap career that ended two years later versus Australia in Pretoria. He went on to play for the Sharks in the newly formed Super 12, continuing through to 1999 when he wrapped up his rugby with a Currie Cup final appearance for Natal.
Having worked in the banking industry for the four years in the lead-up to the World Cup, the now 56-year-old Joubert soon started his own business, Kwazulu Minolta, which is now called 3C Technology.
14. James Small
The winger had the unenviable job in the final of curbing the influence of Jonah Lomu, who had destroyed England in the previous weekend’s semi-final. He more than held his own in what was the 23rd appearance in his 47-cap career which ended at Murrayfield in December 1997.
On-pitch verbal abuse gained Small his bad boy reputation (he was sent off for dissent in 1993) and in keeping with his uppity character, he went on to play for a variety of South African clubs in the professional era, calling it quits in 1999 through injury. A ‘model’, he was involved in restaurants, other businesses and coaching before passing away with a heart attack in July 2019 at the age of 50.
🏆In 1995 @Springboks lifted their first @rugbyworldcup!
➡️Iconic celebrations at Ellis Park came off the back of a 15-12 victory over the @AllBlacks!
🏉What’s your fondest memory? https://t.co/h3Q71uixCN
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) June 24, 2020
13. Japie Mulder
Winning the World Cup in just his ninth appearance for the Springboks illustrated how vital a cog Mulder quickly became for a country he represented on 34 occasions, his last cap coming in 2001 against the Italians in Port Elizabeth. By then a Cats centre, he went on to play a season in the English Premiership with Leeds having signed a dual code contract, but injury meant he never got to play league for the Rhinos.
Post-rugby he pleaded guilty to an attempted 2007 rape and paid a fine, and he and his family were then victims of a 2009 car hijacking. The now 50-year-old has worked for Dark Fibre Africa, the telecommunications infrastructure company, and Samsung.
12. Hennie le Roux
His languages proficiency meant he was a big help in encouraging the Springboks to be word perfect when signing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, which helped get the black community fully behind the team at the finals. The decider was the 17th appearance in his 27-cap career which ended at Cardiff in December 1996 and his club career ended at the Cats in 2000.
Now 52, he is credited with the formation of the South African rugby players union, is the owner of Crown River Safari near Grahamstown, and has numerous other business interests, the latest being Unite SA which he co-founded last September with the aim of promoting “peace, tolerance, respect, equality, prosperity, truth, accountability and to build a civil and just society for all”.
11. Chester Williams
The poster boy of the 1995 Springboks as their only black player, he very nearly missed the tournament through injury and needed suspensions elsewhere to get him back into the squad where he scored four tries in the quarter-final before helping to lift the trophy.
The final was the 14th appearance in his 27-cap career which lasted until the last run in Cardiff in 2000. Ended his club career at the Cats and then embarked on a coaching career which took him as far afield as Romania. Was lastly boss at the University of Cape Town and executive director at Forward Africa Petroleum before his heart attack death in September 2019 at the age of 49.
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) June 17, 2020
10. Joel Stransky
The pivot who kicked the all-important ‘droppie’ recently told RugbyPass that the decision to go for posts went against the call that had initially been made at the scrum by skipper Pienaar.
D-Day versus the All Blacks was the tenth appearance in his 22-cap career that ended versus New Zealand 14 months later. The now 52-year-old spent a few seasons at Leicester in the professional era before returning home where he is director at Pivotal, the technology solutions company he co-founded in 2012 following a stint as Hertz SA CEO.
9. Joost van der Westhuizen
The third player in the cup-winning backline tragically no longer with us, it was his pass that allowed Stransky the time to shoot for glory in a decider that was just the 13th appearance in his lengthy 89-cap career which ended with the 2003 quarter-final loss to New Zealand in Melbourne.
A Bulls player through and through, he was another whose private life became controversially public after he retired and he used his 2009 autobiography to apologise for his misdeeds. A SuperSport TV pundit, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2011, an illness he fought until he died at the age of 45 in 2017.
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) June 22, 2020
1. Os du Randt
The powerful scrummager had the rare distinction of still being involved twelve years later when South Africa won their second World Cup, that victory in Paris bringing the curtain down on a record-setting 80-cap career that would have had more appearances but for missing many years through injury (he was uncapped from November 1999 through to June 2004).
The 1995 final was just his ninth appearance and he played on in South Africa when the game officially turned pro, featuring for numerous Super Rugby franchises. The now 47-year-old farmer went on to scrum coach for the Cheetahs and the Springboks. Was inducted into World Rugby’s hall of fame prior to the 2019 World Cup.
2. Chris Rossouw
The final was just the fifth appearance in his nine-cap career, the red card suspension for James Dalton opening the door for his selection. Was cast back into anonymity after the finals and it wasn’t until 1999 that he earned his last four caps. The 54-year-old, who has overcome cancer, played for the Lions and the Sharks and now works in the family business, the Rossgro farm company.
3. Balie Swart
The tighthead made just two more appearances for the Springboks following the final, the end arriving for his 16-cap career in August 1996 (in Bloemfontein versus Australia). Was involved in one of the most bizarre club send-offs, getting his marching orders from Andre Watson after showing the referee the red card.
The now 56-year-old became a coach after retiring, even spending some time at the Highlanders in New Zealand and working at the 2007 World Cup with the Springboks before moving into referee coaching, initially at SA Rugby and then with SANZAAR.
4. Kobus Wiese
The World Cup decider was his seventh appearance in an 18-cap Test career that ended in Cardiff in December 1996. The now 56-year-old, who played professionally for the Lions and had stints in Europe, is the owner of Wiesenhof Coffees and a rugby commentator for SuperSport.
5. Hannes Strydom
The World Cup final was the eleventh appearance in his 21-cap career which ended against Australia in Pretoria in August 1997. A qualified pharmacist who played professionally for a number of SA franchises, he owns a pharmacy chain, Pharma Valu, in Pretoria. Now 54, he survived an attempted carjacking and assault in 2014.
6. Francois Pienaar (captain)
The skipper had his role reprised by Matt Damon in the Hollywood movie Invictus about the finals. Made just eight more appearances in his 29-cap career after the RWC, finishing up against New Zealand in Cape Town in 1996 and moving to Saracens in England where he became CEO after he retired from playing.
Now 53, he worked for FNB after returning to South Africa before founding Advent Sport and Media Entertainment in 2009. Was also the founding chairman of the Make A Difference leadership foundation.
7. Ruben Kruger
The final was the flanker’s tenth appearance in his 36-cap career which ended at the 1999 World Cup in Cardiff. Voted player of the year in 1995, he went on to play for the Bulls in Super 12.
Diagnosed with a tumour in 2000, the initial operation was thought to be a success for the Pretoria-based camera salesman. However, he took ill on a family holiday in 2009 and passed away the following year at the age of just 39.
8. Mark Andrews
The Jo’burg showpiece was just the second occasion in his then 13-cap career that he packed down at No8, a position he quipped he hadn’t played since he was a 13-year-old until chosen there for the semi-finals. Reverted to lock thereafter, going on to win 77 caps and bringing the curtain down in 2001 at Twickenham.
His club career kept going until 2004, finishing with Newcastle in England. Went into the sports goods business after returning to South Africa and the now 48-year-old is currently listed as the independent business owner of Innov8 Solar since last October after a long involvement with M5 Sports Group.
17. Brendan Venter, 19. Rudolf Straeuli, 20. Garry Pagel
16. Gavin Johnson, 18. Johan Roux, 21. Naka Drotske
By Liam Heagney, Rugbypass