Remember Paris, 2007. It was the Rugby World Cup year of the Springboks. John Smit’s squad of players were based in Paris for most of the tournament and the French people adopted the Springboks as their alternate when France bombed. Not only were the Boks the most popular side at the tournament but they were also the best.
My Monday Business Day Newspaper column revisits the remarkable Springboks tournament win.
We’re a nation of rugby supporters who thirst for success but equally we find it so hard to celebrate our successes.
October 20 is the 10th anniversary of the Springboks’ 2007 World Cup victory.
Only the Springboks and All Blacks have won rugby’s grand prize on debut (the All Blacks in 1987 and the Springboks in 1995) and only the Springboks and All Blacks have won the World Cup home and away.
October 20 is a reminder of the glory of the Springboks. Take a moment to reflect on that wonderful night in Paris because yesterday’s winners will inspire the next generation of Springboks winners.
For today’s Springboks there has to be an understanding of the magnitude of the occasion and of what it took to win the World Cup. There has to be a celebration.
The storytelling has to be more consistent and it has to boast about two very different but equally dramatic World Cup wins in South Africa in 1995 and in France in 2007.
I was fortunate to report on every Springbok World Cup game in 1995 and 2007. It was a privilege to write about these champions and it remains a privilege to be in a position to continue to tell their story in the month of October when World Rugby’s Executive will confirm the independent recommendation of which of South Africa, Ireland or France will host the 2023 World Cup.
South Africa 2023 would be a rugby carnival unlike any in the game’s professional history. It would be total immersion and this country’s sporting and rugby support base would embrace every one of the 20 competing countries.
There should be total backing among the South African rugby public for bringing the World Cup back to South Africa in 2023. Equally there should be an annual reliving of those 1995 and 2007 World Cup victories.
More should be done to bring the two squads from 1995 and 2007 together in celebration and it is crucial to future success that the performances of those who inspired South Africa’s two golden moments are shown again and again.
There’s a magic about the Springboks when it comes to international rugby – and there always has been. The low of 2016 is not an aberration in the history of the Springboks. There have been years of equal distress and disillusionment. But the Springboks historically over the last 100 years have always recovered to be a leader in the game.
Those World Cup warriors of 1995, led by Francois Pienaar, and the class of 2007, with John Smit as the helm, can never be thanked enough. If you talk rugby legends and South African rugby legends, then surely there also has to be an exclusive Springbok World Cup Legends comprising of those players who have won World Cup gold.
The Springboks in 1995 and 2007 produced some of the great World Cup moments, as a team and in individual performances. The 1995 opening game win at Newlands against defending champions Australia and the 36-0 win against England in Paris are two of my favourite matches.
The courage of the 1995 squad was similar to that of 2007.
The defining 1995 Springbok match was the semi-final against France in Durban. The 2007 Springboks’ defining match was the quarterfinal win against Fiji in Marseilles. Both those matches could easily have been lost and both were won through an absolute refusal to be beaten.
The Boks of 1995 talk of that last scrum against France, in which lock Kobus Wiese famously told Springbok prop Balie Swart that he could go sideways or forward but he certainly wasn’t going to be going backwards.
In 2007 it was wing JP Pietersen’s covering tackle that killed the Fiji momentum as the game threatened to be taken away from the Boks.
In 1995 Springboks fullback Andre Joubert played through the quarterfinal, semi-final and final with a broken hand. In 2007 Springbok fullback Percy Montgomery played the last 45 minutes of the final with torn knee ligaments and kicked two of his four penalty successful penalty goals with one functional leg.
Os du Randt, as a kid in 1995 and as the grand old man of the 2007 victory, was colossal in defining Springbok rugby excellence.
We should never tire of telling the World Cup story of Os, Joubert, Montgomery, the tackles of Joost van der Westhuizen and Japie Mulder on Jonah Lomu, Chester Williams’s four tries against Samoa in 1995 and Bryan Habana’s four against Samoa in 2007.
And of course the 1995 World Cup Final match winning drop goal from Joel Stransky.
The players of 1995 and 2007 represent the past but it’s this inspirational past that will influence an equally inspirational Springbok rugby future.