That winning feeling

SA Rugby magazine picks six of the best Springbok end-of-year tour victories.

BEAT FRANCE 20-15
Stade de Gerland, Lyon, 1992

This was South Africa’s first post-isolation Test in Europe, and after faring poorly in the build-up games, not many gave them a chance. Captained by the 34-year-old Naas Botha, the Boks had another 34-year-old in the backline in the form of the legendary Danie Gerber. As it turned out, the Bok game plan, which consisted of giving the ball to Botha and letting him kick it, worked a charm, with shock tries from Gerber and James Small on either side of half-time being supplemented by Botha’s excellent goal and field kicking. The result meant that at that time the French had still to beat the Boks on their own soil.

BEAT SWANSEA 78-5
St Helen’s, Swansea, 1994

The Springboks were on their first tour of Wales since the end of isolation, and this Guy Fawkes Day clash was to be the big club game before the Test, with Swansea rated the best team in the Principality – a rating they confirmed by winning the Welsh competition later that season. But although Swansea scored first through wing Simon Davies, they were completely swamped after that, with the Boks scoring 12 tries. André Joubert enjoyed a blinder, scoring four tries and converting nine for a personal haul of 38 points.

BEAT ENGLAND 24-14
Twickenham, London, 1995

The tone was set on the Sunday night prior to the Test when the Springboks arrived at their hotel after flying in from Rome, where they had played Italy. At a press conference, skipper Francois Pienaar was asked what he thought of Mike Catt’s contention that he was just an average player. The look of shock on Pienaar’s face quickly turned to one of determination. The Catt jibe galvanised the squad that had arrived as newly crowned world champions and had been unbeaten in the calendar year. They dominated the game, and could have won by a bigger margin as Chester Williams had a legitimate try disallowed. It was a great day to be a South African at Twickenham.

BEAT FRANCE 52-10
Parc des Princes, Paris, 1997

We never thought we would see the day that a French crowd would stand and applaud the Springboks as they did a lap of honour, but that is what happened at Parc des Princes. It was the last time the Boks played France at the stadium (though they did return there to play Samoa in the 2007 World Cup), and their coach Nick Mallett, so admired and revered in France, was determined to make it count. The Boks played magnificent rugby that day, with forwards and backs combining like they seldom have, and by the end of the match the French were just run off their feet. Pieter Rossouw finished with four tries.

BEAT ENGLAND 29-11
Twickenham, London, 1997

The Springbok annihilation of England was a record, and it could have been by more as Dick Muir was unfairly penalised for crossing (obstruction) in what looked like a good try that was disallowed. Seldom have the Boks been as dominant at Twickenham as they were on that sunny afternoon.

BEAT ENGLAND 42-6
Twickenham, London, 2008

Twickenham has been a scene of embarrassment for Springbok teams, but it has also been a venue where they have celebrated some of their greatest triumphs. This was the day when memories of the 53-3 humiliation in 2002 were finally erased. The Boks arrived having struggled against Scotland and with question marks over what type of game they were trying to play. But up against the old, hated enemy, SAR coverthere was no blurring of the lines – the Boks returned to the structures that played to their physicality, and while England dominated possession, the South Africans smashed them in the collisions and fed off their mistakes en route to inflicting the biggest ever defeat on England at their home ground.

By Gavin Rich

– This article appears in the latest issue of SA Rugby magazine. Click here to subscribe.