The Glory of '95: 'Vasbyt, adrenalin and stupidity' help Boks beat France
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TODAY it is exactly 25 years since the Springboks beat France in a World Cup semi-final played out amid unbearable tension. Rugby writer
, one of the heroes of that day, for his recollections of the drama in a drenched Durban.
Here is the tighthead prop’s story in his own words.
“The morning of the game we looked out of the window of our beachfront hotel and all we saw were dark clouds over the Indian Ocean.
“We were looking at each other with big eyes, and saying: ‘What the hell is going on here?’
“When we got to the Stadium, usually you walk out on to the pitch to get a feel of the ground, but we couldn’t go past the end of the tunnel - none of us wanted to get our shoes and pants wet! It was a lake!
“This was the game where Andre Joubert had that special rubber glove over his broken hand.
"In the changeroom I was sitting opposite him ... the glove had a fin running along it and it looked just like a fish.
“I said to my mate Cobus (Wiese) sitting next to me: ‘He will be all right out there (with the fin)!’ That broke some of the tension!
“Halfway through the warm-up, Morne (du Plessis, the manager) came in and said the kickoff was delayed so there we were lying in the change room with heat shields under our heads, listening to the thunder, wondering if our World Cup was over.
“Then there was another kickoff delay after we had just finished warming up. In the end, we warmed up four times! That must be some kind of a record.
“It was a heck of a game to be a forward because most of the time we were chasing kicks - it was always going to be that kind of a game.
“We were exhausted pretty quickly, and that was also because the ground was so heavy, and we were sodden, obviously.
“Early in the second half I was trapped in a ruck and (Abdelatif) Benazzi (the massive French flank) came diving in with his knees and I felt my ribs go - later I found out two of them had been cracked.
Abdelatif Benazzi in his heyday.
“I played on but towards the end of the game the pain was excruciating. When we got to those famous last scrums in that corner near our try-line, with the French pushing for the win (the Boks led 19-15), I said to myself: ‘This is stupid If I can’t give 100% I must be replaced by someone who can.’
“I stayed on for the first scrum (there would be four of them), it collapsed, and when I got up in agony I told Kobus I was finished, I was in too much pain. Well, he looked at me with an expression of disgust and said: ‘You are going nowhere, softy.’
“Then he looked at me and said in a very serious tone: ‘Listen carefully: you can go up, you can go down, you can go left or right, but you will NOT go back!’
“How did we hold them off to win? There was vasbyt, adrenalin and stupidity!
“But probably what carried the day was the crowd support in that corner - the screaming of ‘Bokke, Bokke!’
“I don’t think people understand how that lifts a player, how important it is.
“After the final whistle, us three front row guys came together (Balie, Chris Rossouw and Os du Randt) in our own little huddle. We stood there for quite a while, crying with relief.
“When you go through a couple of minutes of incredible intensity together, with a lot of words spoken to each other to get through it.
“Well, you cry with relief. We had held it together. Honestly, at that time we knew we were holding on for something much bigger than ourselves.”