FILE - Francios Pienaar receives the Rugby World Cup from former president Nelson Mandela. Picture: Ross Setford/AP
FILE - Francios Pienaar receives the Rugby World Cup from former president Nelson Mandela. Picture: Ross Setford/AP

The A-Z of the 1995 Rugby World Cup

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen Time of article published Jun 21, 2020

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A is for All Blacks: The New Zealanders enjoyed a good tournament and breezed into the final, but they came unstuck against the Springboks in a thrilling match at Ellis Park. They scored 21 tries in their 145-17 win against Japan in pool play in Bloemfontein.

B is for Boet Erasmus Stadium: The old stadium in Port Elizabeth played host to one of the most infamous World Cup matches, between the Boks and Canada. James Dalton was sent from the field, as were Canadians Gareth Rees and Rod Snow, for fighting, while Pieter Hendriks was later also banned.

C is for Chester Williams: The Bok winger was initially ruled out of the tournament because of injury but won back his place when Pieter Hendriks was banned. Williams scored four tries in his first match back, against Western Samoa, and would be one of the big Bok heroes from the class of ’95. 

D is for Drop-goal: There were some hugely crucial drop-goals kicked over the course of the tournament, among them England’s Rob Andrew’s last-gasp winner against Australia in the quarters and Joel Stransky’s famous extra-time winner against New Zealand in the final.

E is for Ed Morrison: The English referee took charge of the final in front of 60 000 fans at Ellis Park on June 24, 1995. He will forever be remembered as the man who turned his back on the players when a scrum disintegrated, blew his whistle, and oversaw the Boks winning, against the odds, in extra time against the mighty New Zealand.

F is for Francois Pienaar: The Springbok captain, who was close to coach Kitch Christie and who was well respected by the bulk of his team who came from Transvaal, led his squad with pride and a never-say-die attitude. He proved to be an inspired choice as team leader. 

G is for Ground staff: It had rained like never before in Durban and the Boks were on the brink of losing out to France in the semi-final because of their poorer disciplinary record. If the semi-final didn’t go ahead - because of a water-logged pitch - it was all over for South Africa. The ground staff though, with brooms in hands, got King’s Park playable - and the rest is history. 

H is for Hennie le Roux: At just 1.75m tall and weighing a relatively little 78kg, Hennie le Roux is not a big man, and in 1995 he faced the formidable duo of Walter Little and Frank Bunce in the New Zealand midfield in the final. And what a job he did alongside Japie Mulder, keeping the try machines from New Zealand tryless. And Le Roux wasn’t even a recognised centre!

I is for Invictus: The biographical sports drama film, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar and Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, was based on the John Carlin book, Playing the Enemy, about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 tournament.


J is for Jonah Lomu: The 20-year-old New Zealand winger was a sensation in 1995 and after the tournament he’d become the most famous and recognisable rugby player in the world. He scored seven tries in the tournament, including four against England in the semi-finals. 

K is for Kitch Christie: The respected coach had made his name with a strong Transvaal team in the early 90s and would be handed the Springbok reins in 1994. In all he led the Boks to 14 consecutive wins, including winning the 1995 World Cup, and never lost a game as the man in charge of the national team.

L is for Louis Luyt: The businessman was the president of the South African Rugby Union at the time of the country hosting the World Cup. He played a significant role in South African being awarded the right to host the tournament in 1995, just a few years after the country returned to sporting competition after years of isolation.

M is for Money: The game was still very much amateur in 1995, but following the Boks’ win, it wasn’t long before rugby turned professional. In August of 1995 the International Rugby Board declared rugby an “open” game and thus removed restrictions on payments or benefits to those connected to the game. Very soon TV deals were signed and competitions like Super Rugby and the Heineken Cup were established. 

N is for Nelson Mandela: The president of South Africa paid the Boks a visit in Cape Town prior to the tournament and wished them well, and later after the final, wore a Bok jersey with the No 6 on the back - the number of the captain Francois Pienaar. What a moment in the history of the game.

O is for Os du Randt: The rookie loosehead prop was just 22 years old and had played only a handful of provincial games before being handed the No 1 jersey. And what a star Du Randt would become. Twelve years later, in France, he’d win a second World Cup title, with the victorious team of 2007.

P is for Pieter Hendricks: The flying winger may not have made it all the way to the final because of what happened in Port Elizabeth against Canada, but he’ll forever be remembered as the man who rounded the legend, David Campese, and scored THAT try in the opener against Australia. 

Q is for Quansah: Who? What? Daniel Quansah was a prop who played for the Ivory Coast at the 1995 tournament - and his coming off the bench in the pool game against Tonga at Olympia Park in Rustenburg was his one and only Test appearance. It was in the same match that Max Brito broke his neck and was paralysed.

R is for Rugby World Cup: The tournament in 1995 was the first major sporting event held in South Africa since the end of apartheid. It was the first tournament the Boks played in after being banned from the 1987 and 1991 events and it would also be the final World Cup in the amateur era. The tournament lasted 31 days, 16 teams participated and the Boks were crowned champions.   

S is for Suzie: Ask any New Zealander, including the All Blacks coach of the 1995 team, Laurie Mains, why the team was beaten in the final and they’ll tell you the players had been poisoned in the days before the match by a lady named “Suzie”, who supposedly worked at the New Zealanders’ hotel. It is one of the most notorious stories of the tournament.

T is for Thierry Lacroix: The French flyhalf enjoyed a tournament to remember and he finished as the top points scorer, with 112 points. He was on top of his game throughout the showpiece and kicked beautifully, but he wouldn’t taste the ultimate victory. 

U is for Under-the-radar: Not too many rugby followers had given the Boks a chance in the build-up to the tournament, especially after they were placed in the same pool as defending champions, Australia. And who’d have thought they’d beat New Zealand in the final? Talk about flying under the radar.  

V is for Victory: It was a Bok victory built on guts, defence and kicking. It wasn’t pretty, but it was magnificent. The victory against the highly-rated All Blacks in the final brought the country together at a tough time in the new democracy and for a while the promise of South Africa being a happy rainbow nation was real.

W is for World in Union: Has anyone performed “World in Union” better than the version sung by PJ Powers in 1995? Every time the now famous theme song of the Rugby World Cup plays one can’t help but think back to the ’95 tournament. What an occasion it was!  

X is for X-factor: Some Bok fans thought coach Kitch Christie had lost the plot when he opted to pick powerful and influential lock Mark Andrews as his No 8 in the latter stages of the tournament. But the pick worked a treat as the Boks had greater power up front as well as an extra lineout option. Now that was a choice that had X-factor written all over it. 

Y is for Youth: Sure, the Boks only returned to Test rugby in 1992 so not too many guys had played a lot of Test rugby, but in the squad of ’95, James Small, with 19 caps, was by far the most senior man. Francois Pienaar had 16 caps when the tournament started. Also, 15 of the 28 players were 25 and younger; it was a youthful squad full of hope and dreams. 

Z is for Zinzan Brooke: The outrageously talented and brilliant New Zealand eighthman Zinzan Brooke was the best in his position around the time of the World Cup, but no one expected him to land a 50 metre drop-goal on the run in the semi-final against England, but that’s exactly what he did. What a joy it was to have him play in South Africa at that time.

IOL Sport

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