With fewer than ten weeks until the beginning of the 8th instalment of the Rugby World Cup, we turn the clock back to revisit ten of the greatest World Cup matches of all time.
The 1995 World Cup was more famous for its off-field events than those which occurred on it. Despite the Apartheid era having ended a year earlier, there was still racial tension within South Africa. Prior to hosting the World Cup, President Nelson Mandela challenged Springbok captain Francois Pienaar to win the event in order to unite the nation through victory and celebration. Never before had a sporting event inspired such political change, but together Mandela and Pienaar, with the support of hundreds of thousands of South Africans, achieved something absolutely remarkable.
RUGBY WORLD CUP CLASSICS: #5 1995 SOUTH AFRICA VS NEW ZEALAND
South Africa went into the final as overwhelming underdogs. Yes, they had defeated reigning champions Australia 27-18 in the group stage and stormed past Western Samoa 42-14 in the quarter final, however the All Blacks had battered all before them – up to this point they had had the perfect World Cup – scoring 41 tries in the process, at an average of 8.2 per match.
Yet in this final, neither the Springboks nor the explosive All Blacks could muster up a single try. At full-time, the scores were level at nine-apiece, thanks to the boots of Joel Stransky and Andrew Mehrtens respectively. Even after the first half of extra time, the teams were tied at 12-12.
But then in the second half, the Boks, who had enjoyed a dominant scrum throughout the match, put the squeeze on again and fly-half Stransky, who had already slotted one drop goal in the game, received a pass from Joost van der Westhuizen and floated a sweet 30 metre drop goal straight between the sticks.
The iconic images of the post-match trophy ceremony will not be forgotten by anyone who was fortunate enough to witness them. Mandela, dressed in a Springbok shirt and baseball cap, presented Pienaar with the Webb Ellis Cup. This pivotal moment changed not only South African rugby forever, but it transformed South African society, too.