The Glory of '95: How Andrews kept Joubert entertained in the chamber
Just seven days before that semi, the Boks had played a quarter-final against the rugged Western Samoans at Ellis Park. Ten minutes into the game, Joubert had ran past Western Samoan George Harder and the wing had shot out a fist in frustration - straight into Joubert’s right hand.
Later, it would be revealed that three bones in that hand were broken but, amazingly, Joubert had the hand strapped and continued playing, only to be laid out 10 minutes later by a high and late tackle by fullback Mike Umaga.
This time he came off ...
At 11pm that night he underwent an operation to repair the shattered hand. Usually recovery from this type of injury would be seven weeks, but South Africa needed Joubert to play again in seven days.
The Rolls-Royce of fullbacks - named because of his poise, class and elegant play - was playing the best rugby of his career at age 31 and was a vital member of the Bok team.
To speed up recovery (mostly by reducing swelling) and to give Joubert a chance of playing against France, doctors suggested that he have a series of sessions in a decompression chamber, which simulates conditions 14m under the sea. Wearing an oxygen mask, he would sit in the chamber for two-and-a-half-hour sessions (he had three of them that week).
It is not widely known that Joubert’s teammate Mark Andrews spent two of the sessions with him (Andrews had suffered a rib injury against the tough-tackling Western Samoans) and being able to chat to each other alleviated the crushing boredom.
“Basically we sat in this steel cylinder for these lengthy sessions while they lowered the pressure and pumped in oxygen, which helps to make the swelling go away,” Joubert said.
“It would have been quite an ordeal if I had not had that walking encyclopedia, Mark, along to keep me entertained. He talked, I listened.”
The treatment did the job and when a special rubber sleeve was flown in from Ireland, Joubert was as good to go as could be expected. The reason the glove came from Ireland is because in their unique sport of hurling hands are always getting struck.
After Joubert had completed his treatment in the hyperbaric chamber he held a press conference, and the Sarfu chief executive at that time, Edward Griffiths, told this amusing story.
“A smiling Joubert told reporters how he had been the equivalent of 14m below water, but had seen no fish (Joubert is an avid fisherman). Two Japanese rugby writers earnestly recorded this marine observation in their notebooks!”
Joubert duly took his place in the starting XV for the semi where his hand was tested time and time again as the French hoisted the ball into the heavens on that rainy day. He came through unscathed and went on to be rock solid for the Boks in the final.