CAPE TOWN – I had the great fortune of being in the press box when the Springboks won the 1995 World Cup. I was also there when the All Blacks won at home in 2011, but the one World Cup that will always be memorable is the 2007 World Cup in France.
I was there to report for Independent Media and SA Rugby Magazine, and the Boks were exclusively based in Paris. The only time the Boks left Paris was a day before a few group matches and the quarter-finals in Marseilles. The rest was spent in Paris.
The Al Blacks were the tournament favourites. They smashed everyone on their northern hemisphere tour the previous year, and they did it playing a different team every weekend. They’d destroy one team on a Saturday, make 14 changes and do the same to the next of one of the four home unions.
Everyone expected the All Blacks to win. So did the All Blacks, but if the All Blacks loved themselves, most of France did not like them. They were arrogant and awful as ambassadors.
The Boks were wary of the All Blacks, to the point that I always wondered if the boys ever believed they could beat New Zealand in the final. When France beat the Kiwis in the quarter-finals in Cardiff, there was as much relief within the Bok squad as there was celebration.