The Glory of '95: 4 flops of the 1995 Rugby World Cup
A lot was expected of world champions Australia. Instead, they fell woefully short and were knocked out of the tournament in the quarter-finals. The same goes for France, whose hopes were sunk by the rain and the Springboks in Durban.
The French fall short … by millimeters
Considering their heroics in 1994 when they became the first northern hemisphere team to win a series in New Zealand, big things were expected of the French team that pitched up in South Africa in 1995. That ‘94 series victory included the now legendary “Try from the end of the World”, scored by captain Phillippe Saint-Andre.
France were packed with brilliant players that year - they had a powerful pack, and in the backline the unerring boot of Thierry Lacroix - the top points scorer at RWC1995 - Hall of Famer Phillipe Sella and arguably one of their greatest players La Vieille - Jean-Luc Sadourny.
It might seem unfair to call them flops in 1995 - they did finish third after all - but considering that they were arguably the best Five Nations team at that year’s World Cup, a repeat of 1987 where they reached the final was expected of them.
They fell millimeters short in this endeavour in the semi-final against South Africa at a drenched Kings Park, crashing towards the tryline in what would have been the match winning try, only to be denied by the smallest of margins.
A few months later they would beat finalist New Zealand for a third consecutive time, cementing a what-could-have-been legacy.
England get run over by a steam train in No 11 jersey
The Five Nations champions that year were not prepared for New Zealand - and more specifically Jonu Lomu - when those teams met in the semi-final of the tournament at Newlands.
The match was expected to be a close encounter between the best northern hemisphere outfit and the best southern hemisphere team, but instead the All Blacks - led by the irrepressible Lomu - literally steam-rolled the English 45-29 in a match that will forever define Mike Catt.
The defending world champions were pretty average.
When South Africa beat Australia in the opening match of the tournament, it was a huge shock. Australia had commanded the encounter since the Boks readmission in 1992 and much the same was expected at Newlands on May 25.
Moreover, the Wallabies were defending world champions, having won the 1991 iteration of the Webb Ellis trophy, and with dangerous players and championship-winning veterans such as David Champese, Tim Horan, Mick Lynagh, captain John Eales and Phil Kearns, they were expected to go far, if not emulate their 1991 heroics.
Instead, they fell woefully short and were knocked out of the tournament in the quarter-finals by England in a close encounter 25-22.
South Africa and the aftermatch
A bit of a cheat here, to be honest, but considering the World Cup glory achieved in 1995, the Boks were expected to be going places and dominating any team they played. Instead, the good vibes of being World Champions was short-lived.
A year after their emotional triumph, New Zealand exacted sweet revenge when they, first crushed all opposition to lift the inaugural Tri-Nations title and then, in a three Test tour, humiliated the Springboks in a 3-0 whitewash - the first All Black side to ever win a series in SA. A year later, it got worse for the World Champions when they lost that year’s British and Irish Lions Test series.