Former Springbok rugby wing Chester William passed away earlier this year. Photo: Michael Sherman/ANA
CAPE TOWN - The Springboks earlier in the year paid tribute to the late James Small and Chester Williams with personal tributes and also through tangible match-day gestures. In Saturday’s World Cup final, the very same Boks, no doubt guided by the rugby gods, gave the 1995 World Cup-winning duo the greatest gift by way of try-scoring numbers.

It wasn’t lost on followers of the game that South Africa’s two World Cup final tries were scored by players wearing the No 11 and 14 jerseys.

Chester Williams, in the 1995 World Cup knockout round, owned the Bok No 11 jersey and defended like a trojan against All Black right wing Jeff Wilson. James Small, who wore the No 14 Bok jersey in South Africa’s first international match back from sporting isolation in 1992, was as heroic in handling the physical presence of the-then man-child Jonah Lomu in the 1995 final.

The Boks, winners of the 1995 World Cup against New Zealand 15-12 and the 2007 World Cup against England 15-6, had never scored a try in a World Cup final. It took 66 minutes in Tokyo on Saturday for Springbok left wing Makazole Mapimpi to finally honour the famed Bok No 11 jersey with a try. Less than 10 minutes later, Cheslin Kolbe did a similar thing for those who have worn the No 14 jersey.

Wings are traditionally the finishers in rugby, and at the 2019 World Cup, Mapimpi and Kolbe would score six and three respectively.

Former South African winger James Small died earlier this year. Photo: Backpagepix

The current Springbok duo’s try-scoring also challenges the perception that the Boks, at the 2019 World Cup, were a team that couldn’t score tries. They scored the second most tries and the most points on way to claiming their third World Cup in seven tournaments and their third from three finals. Statistically, this makes the Boks the greatest ever World Cup team, eclipsing New Zealand’s three successes from nine attempts and three final wins from four starts.

Long before the first kick-off of the 2019 World Cup I wrote that I could see Siya Kolisi hoisting the Cup into the heavens. I wrote that it looks right and it will be right on so many levels that go beyond the game of rugby. This was one of those magical World Cups in which I always felt a force far greater than any referee, coach or player, had already written the script. I felt that way when the Boks won the 1995 World Cup in SA and experienced a similar feeling when the All Blacks won in New Zealand in 2011.


Numbers were significant when the All Blacks beat France 8-7 in 2011. In 1987 they had beaten France at the same venue. The numbers that speak so beautifully from SA’s victory in Japan will forever be 11 and 14, when two of today’s Rainbow Warriors paid tribute to two of yesterday’s fallen warriors.

@mark_keohane


Cape Times

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