I WAS THERE: Marius Joubert scores a hat-trick against the great enemy

By Morgan Bolton Time of article published Mar 31, 2020

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The Jake White era announced itself with a euphoric victory at Ellis Park in 2004 as the Boks smashed the All Blacks in a defining moment. Here, Gauteng sports editor MORGAN BOLTON relives that glorious victory.

The Teams

South Africa under new coach Jake White and a rebuilding All Blacks team coached by the legendary Graham Henry.


Montgomery; Paulse, Joubert, Barry, De Villiers; Van der Westhuyzen, Conradie; Du Randt, Smit (capt), Andrews, Botha, Matfield, Burger, Britz, Van Niekerk; Replacements: Shimange, Van der Linde, Venter, Cronje, Du Preez, Du Toit, Russell.

NEW ZEALAND starting XV:

Muliaina; Howlett, Umaga (capt), Tuitupou, Rokocoko; Mehrtens, Marshall; Meeuws, Mealamu, Hayman, Jack, Maling, Gibbes, Holah, Rush; Replacements: Hore, Somerville, Tuiali'i, Newby, Kelleher, Evans, Mauger.

Springbok rugby players in the cold water of a bushveld dam during the exercise at Kamp Staaldraad.

1 The Set-up: The woe of a nation

2003 was a disastrous year for the Springboks. At that World Cup, the Springboks - coached by Rudolf Straeuli - were dumped out of the tournament by New Zealand in the quarter-finals in an undignified manner, creating a general malaise around the national team. That discontent, coupled with previous embarrassing defeats to England, France, Scotland and New Zealand, wrecked the intimidating aura of the Boks on the international stage - leaving the brand a hollowed out husk of its former self and its fans bereft of any pride.

You get it - it was tough, unhappy times for the Boks and the country’s supporters. And it was made all the worse when information leaked of the now infamous Kamp Staaldraad, where the Springboks were demeaned and humiliated as part of their preparation for the showpiece event in Australia.

In short, Bok rugby was in shambles and had lost all respectability when Jake White was named coach in 2004 after Strauli resigned in disgrace.

Jake White took charge of the Springboks in 2004. Photo: Henry Browne/Reuters

2 The build-up: The White knight rises

A series victory over Ireland and an emphatic victory over Samoa in the 2004 June internationals brought a guarded sense of belief back to supporters in White’s first three outings as coach but the true test - the Tri-Nations in which South Africa had failed to be competitive for a number of years - loomed large. 

Desperately close defeats away to New Zealand and Australia were signs of major improvement for the Boks with both losses inflicted in the final moments of those Tests. The All Black defeat was especially disappointing, as much as it was encouraging. Leading 21-18 in the last minute of the Test in Christchurch, South African hearts were broken by a last gasp try by Doug Howlett in the corner that sealed a dramatic 23-21 Kiwi victory. A week earlier, South African old boy and Australian captain Clyde Rathbone scored a similar try in the 31st minute to secure a 30-26 victory for the Wallabies in Perth.

And yet, the Boks had shown a temperament and grit that had been so missing the preceding years and with two bonus points collected in Australasia, a degree of belief that they had turned the corner was now permeating through the team and its long suffering supporters. With the home leg of the tournament still to play, the Boks found themselves in a position to win the Tri-Nations - a position that they had not enjoyed since 1998.

3 Match-day: “Hat-trick! Hat-trick! Unbelievable …”

A jam-packed Ellis Park witnessed one of the great Bok performances on August 14, 2004, but it did not seem that would be the case in the first 20 minutes of the Test. Indeed, the All Blacks took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter of the match and many were now anxious that depressing scenes would unfold as the match progressed. The Boks, however, would prove those fears wrong, smashing their old enemies 40-26 in a thrilling encounter, and setting up a push toward the title a week later against Australia in Durban. 

The defining moment of the match came in the 76th minute when Marius Joubert completed his hat-trick - only the second Springbok to do so against the All Black, the last being Ray Mordt in 1981 - side-stepping his way past the New Zealand defenders to score his third try of the day next to the poles. It sent the Ellis Park faithful into raptures, Jean de Villiers acknowledging the feat by counting out the tries on his fingers after Joubert had been swamped in celebration by his teammates. All three tries started off the base of the scrum with strong runs from eightman Joe van Niekerk building the momentum. 

Well-drilled set-piece moves and a dash of Individual brilliance accounted for the first and third tries, while a magnificent display of running lines, epitomised by De Wet Barry defined the second. Inbetween, Brayton Paulse scored a magnificent try off turnover ball in the corner, while on the other wing, Jean de Villiers also crashed over the tryline to add his name to the scoresheet. Aided by the expert marksmanship of Percy Montgomery - he slotted 15 points over on the day - both those tries help set the South Africans up for the final 10 minutes and a historic win - the Springboks’ first at that time over the All Blacks since 2001.

5 The Aftermath: Ad astra per aspera

A week later, the Boks secured only their second Tr-Nations title, beating the Wallabies 23-19 in a nail-biting encounter. White’s team would go on that year to clean-sweep the World Rugby Awards, winning Team of the Year and Coach of the Year, while Bok legend Schalk Burger would win Player of the Year. 

The year would also build the foundation upon which the 2007 World Cup triumph would be constructed, instilling the mythos and method of the years to come. Sure, there would be still many hiccoughs that stifled the team’s development, but with a sense of belief that the Boks could beat any team, the build-up to that tournament had a distinct air of optimism about it, despite a less-than-ideal 2006 season.

Marius Joubert completes his hat-trick against the All Blacks. Picture: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

6 More than a feeling: My first Test experience

This match, ah, yes, this match … 

It was my first Test match experience, having journeyed through most of my high school career as an anti-social, anti-sport emo-kid. I can still recall the chills, the goosebump-inducing rendition of the National Anthem, the hushed concern permeating the stadium during the first 20 minutes of the Test, the building hope after Joubert scored his first try and the absolute bedlam when he dived over for his third.

There is a photograph, taken at that moment looking down onto the south stands of Ellis Park, the crowd all upstanding, their arms reaching to the heavens in joyous celebration. If you look carefully, if you know the gait of my stance, the features of my silhouette, then maybe, just maybe, you can make me out celebrating, overwhelmed by a sense of shared triumph and joy. It was the match that made me fall in love with rugby, and all sport for that matter, and it is a cherished memory as I stumbled out of childhood and into the greater world.

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