In rugby’s amateur era, the Springboks beat the All Blacks more often than they lost to them but the tables have been heavily turned in the professional era, with the Kiwis dominating the rivalry. However, it has not been all doom and gloom and Mike Greenaway celebrates five memorable Springbok victories he was privileged to cover for Independent Media.
1995 South Africa 15 New Zealand 12 (Johannesburg)
Sean Fitzpatrick wrote in his autobiography that the All Blacks felt that destiny was against them in this World Cup final. He said that the Nelson Mandela touch and the overwhelming sense of history in South Africa that day made the outcome seem pre-ordained. Further, Fitzpatrick magnanimously added that he was okay with that because sometimes life is bigger than sport. Indeed the events that unfolded that day make it the most unforgettable day in South African sporting history and no wonder Hollowood saw fit to capture it in the Clint Eastwood-directed movie Invictus, which celebrated the triumph of the human spirit.
1998 New Zealand 8 South Africa 13 (Wellington)
This was the last ever Test match at the famous Athletic Park, a rickety old ground which made way for the Cake Tin, which was nearing completion at the time of this match. The All Blacks wanted to bid a fitting farewell to a historic stadium (the Boks had also won there on the controversial 1981 tour) but Gary Teichmann’s Boks were the party poopers. The unforgettable moment in that match was the match-winning try which saw flyhalf Henry Honiball deliver a brilliant inside pass to incoming blindside wing Pieter Rossouw. All Blacks flyhalf Carlos Spencer had a horror day with his goal-kicking but the Boks were deserved winners.
1999 South Africa 22 New Zealand 18 (Cardiff)
The week before this match, the All Blacks had been blown out of the World Cup by France while the Boks had lost their semi-final to a flukey Stephen Larkham drop goal. Neither side was particularly in the mood for a third-place play-off and Mark Andrews famously said that it was like having to kiss your sister. Nevertheless, there was a bronze medal at stake and there is no such thing as an easy game when these countries meet on the rugby field. The outstanding moment in the game was a sensational solo try by Breyten Paulse. He had not had many opportunities in that World Cup and he proved a point to Nick Mallett. Paulse’s 70m try included a chip, chase and gather at the end of it. The All Blacks were held tryless and all their points came from the boot of Andrew Mehrtens.
2009 New Zealand 29 South Africa 32 (Hamilton)
The score-line flattered an All Blacks side that scored a late flurry of points after the visitors had smashed them for most of the game. The Boks had already beaten the Kiwis twice in South Africa and this victory secured them the Tri-Nations title. This match was memorable, too, for the three crowd-silencing penalties struck by fullback Francois Steyn from well within his half that locally earned him the nickname of “Jet boots”. Fourie du Preez and Jean de Villiers scored excellent tries and Morne Steyn converted them, added two penalties and kicked a fine drop goal. Right on the final whistle, Richie McCaw scored a try to save his team some face.
2006 South Africa 21 New Zealand 20 (Rustenburg)
This was probably the filthiest Test between these countries of the modern era. The Boks under Jake White and John Smit were dangling by a thread after five successive losses and the week before, they had lost 45-26 to the All Blacks in Pretoria. One more defeat and there would have been a clear-out ahead of the 2007 Word Cup but the “gatvol” Boks threw all caution to the wind and scrapped out a win that was secured by a last-minute penalty goal by Andre Pretorius. The Boks got stuck in physically and the Kiwis responded accordingly. The off-the-ball shenanigans were a throwback to the amateur era when anything went. It was a fact that the White would have been sacked had the Boks lost but a year later that same Bok team won the World Cup!