The Glory of '95: Kobus Wiese stepped forward to accept Lomu challenge
He was the “enforcer” in the Bok pack, the man who stood back for no one and nothing during the tournament. He was the player who stepped forward and out of the line when the All Blacks, just metres away, performed the haka minutes before the kickoff of the final on June 24.
He saw the giant, Jonah Lomu, edge his way towards the Bok team, who were standing in a line on the halfway line, and he accepted the challenge.
“We decided to stand in a line and not single out anyone in the New Zealand team when they performed the haka,” said Wiese about the moments before the final kicked off at Ellis Park almost 25 years ago now.
“But, I noticed Jonah started getting closer and closer to us and I decided I’d take a step forward and accept the challenge by facing him head on. We knew he was the key man in that final; if we could stop him we’d have a chance.”
Wiese played just 18 times for the Boks between 1993 and 1996, but he made his presence known on every occasion - just ask Wales lock Derwyn Jones, who was on the receiving end of a punch by the Bok lock earlier in 1995. Wiese copped a 30-day ban and a big fine.
Wiese was one of Bok rugby’s first so-called “enforcers” up front, before the likes of Bakkies Botha and more recently, Eben Etzebeth, came onto the scene. The now 56-year old said that it has always been up to the locks to lay down the marker and lead the pack.
“The locks are the heart and engine of the pack,” said Wiese, a strong option at the front of the lineout and a busy operator in the loose in his day.
“With no disrespect to the loosies and the backs, the tight five is what every good team is built around. And Doc (Danie) Craven always said, ‘Give me two locks and I’ll build you a pack’.
“There can be no scrum power without two quality locks, and lineouts would be pointless if it weren’t for the two locks.”
Wiese said he enjoyed the physicality of rugby and relished his role at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
“Rugby is a confrontational and physical sport; that’s why we love it. I never went out looking for a fight or a confrontation, but because of the close contact between the players things happen. I love ballet, but rugby ain’t ballet,” he said.
“In rugby there’s one or two places where you can physically intimidate your opponent legally, and that’s in the scrums and in the loose. In 1995 we knew we had to win the physical battles if we were to win the matches, and that’s what we set out to do.”
Wiese said a key ingredient in 1995 was the fact that the core of the Bok team were Transvaal players. “It made a big difference,” Wiese said.
“It made a big difference. Look at all the strongest international teams all over the world and you’ll find the nucleus of the team come from the same side. Most of the players in the 1995 squad knew each other and the coaching team was also familiar to the majority of the guys.
“But, everyone who came in from other provinces quickly felt at home and we were a tight-knit unit from the start.”