2011: Home comforts
In the match before the World Cup the Springboks beat the All Blacks 18-5 in Port Elizabeth, but there was nothing confident about Pieter de Villiers's team at the World Cup – despite heaps of experience, including Victor Matfield and John Smit who each had over a hundred Test caps.
Their first pool match was against Wales, who led 16-10 with 15 minutes to play when Francois Hougaard, on the wing for Bryan Habana, scored a try off Fourie du Preez, which Morné Steyn converted and the Springboks won 17-16.
They might not have managed even that if there had been different judgement of a James Hook penalty, which was flagged away for going over the right-hand upright instead of inside of it. That was with just seven minutes to play.
In the end Wales reached the semifinals while the Springboks were knocked out in the quarterfinals. Wales lost their semifinal 8-9 to France and the third/fourth-lace play-off 18-21 to Australia. That meant that they lost three matches – by one point twice and by three points.
The Springbok defeat in the quarterfinal was ridiculous and not the sole fault of referee Bryce Lawrence as the whole of South Africa seemed to believe raucously. Lawrence, incidentally, had been Peter de Villiers's choice to referee the match.
It was a match that South Africa did almost everything but win. For one thing they enjoyed 76 percent of territory and 56 percent of possession, but the Wallabies defended sternly and the Springboks made four vital errors.
Schalk Burger bashed from a scrum near his line and the Springboks lost the ball to the Wallabies and a try by James Horwill, the only try of the match. A pass from Jean de Villiers, who had broken splendidly, to unmarked Pat Lambie was forward. Fourie du Preez knocked on with the line open. Then, when the Wallabies did get out of their half, Danie Rossouw pulled down Radike Samo in a line-out, the assistant referee reported it to the referee and James O'Connor goaled the long, angled penalty to put Australia 11-9 ahead. That was the final score.
The Springboks went home and at home there was a storm of protest about the refereeing on a scale unknown in rugby football, at least since 1884 when Scotland objected to a try by Richard Kindersley of England which led to a cessation of matches between the two countries and led to the formation of the International Rugby Board.
That was more formal; the 2011 protest nastier, and in fact Lawrence, who acknowledged that he had not had a good game, made himself unavailable for Super Rugby matches in South Africa after this.
France pipped Wales in the one semifinal and New Zealand gave Australia a hiding in the other one.
And so to the Final – New Zealand versus France as it was in the beginning, in 1987 when New Zealand won well.
This was a close Final – a try apiece, a penalty for New Zealand and a conversion for France, and New Zealand won 8-7.
And France complained about the referee, Craig Joubert of South Africa. But then losing teams often complain about referees!
For New Zealand it was a great occasion – a win at home again and could celebrate a magnificent World Cup (the second in just one country) and their team crowned champions of the world.
It may just have been New Zealand's greatest cultural achievement
By Paul Dobson