1995: Springboks' first time unites divided nation

Mike Hall of Wales charges through against Japan.
Photo / Getty Images
Mike Hall of Wales charges through against Japan. Photo / Getty Images

The 1995 tournament was the first time the Springboks had appeared at a World Cup, after years of isolation ended in 1992, and the first time the event was held in one country.

Expectation levels before the opening game between the host nation and defending champions Australia built to a crescendo. The Wallabies looked overawed by the atmosphere but kept up with the Springboks, who led 14-13 at the break after a try to Pieter Hendricks.

First-five Joel Stransky started the tournament as he would finish, with a dominant display, scoring 22 points in the 27-18 victory.

Scotland overwhelmed Ivory Coast 89-0 with fullback Gavin Hastings scoring a record 44 points, while the well-drilled Samoans scored six tries beating Italy 42-18 and another four in a much-heralded victory over a powerful Argentina side by 32-26. Argentina actually led 26-13 with 10 minutes left before the Samoans cut loose.

The All Blacks unleashed the most talked-about player at the World Cup in giant 20-year-old winger Jonah Lomu. In pool play he scored twice against Ireland in a convincing 43-19 team performance, with his 80-metre burst through most of the Irish team a tournament highlight - until his astonishing performance to come in the semifinal.

The All Blacks cruised through to the quarter-finals with a 34-9 win over Wales and a 145-17 flogging of Japan. Debutant Simon Culhane scored 45 points to break Hastings' record and Marc Ellis scored six times from centre.

France were expected to do well, after winning their first series in New Zealand in 1994, but were their usual mix of brilliance and almost disinterest against the weaker teams. They beat Tonga 38-10 and the Ivory Coast 54-18 before meeting Scotland at Loftus Versfeld in a classic encounter.

Scotland needed to win to top their pool to avoid the All Blacks in the quarter-finals. They started well with a 13-3 lead at halftime through a try to flanker Rob Wainwright and Hastings' assured goalkicking. Thierry Lacroix's boot kept the French in touch but Scotland were still ahead 19-15 with minutes to play when the French launched an attacking raid, which Emile Ntamack finished off in the corner. Lacroix converted to clinch a crucial 22-19 victory.

Ireland and Wales met for a place in the quarter-finals, with Ireland edging the Welsh 24-23 in a forgettable match. England looked the strongest of the home nations, but had to work hard to win their pool games against Argentina 24-20, Italy 27-20 and Western Samoa 44-22. England's reward was a showdown with Australia and a chance to avenge their defeat in the 1991 World Cup final.

In the play-offs, France and Ireland played the opening quarter-final in Durban which failed to reach the skill level and drama of the other three matches. France's 36-12 win booked them a semifinal spot - would it be South Africa or Western Samoa? Their clash at Ellis Park was not for the faint-hearted with early tackles from the Samoans enraging the home team and supporters. The star who broke Samoan hearts was Springbok winger Chester Williams who scored four tries. He was unstoppable in the 42-14 win.

England looked more assured than Australia in Cape Town and led 13-3 playing into a stiff breeze. Winger Tony Underwood had an early try but Michael Lynagh kicked the goals to keep the Wallabies in touch. A piece of Aussie Rules high skill gave Wallabies winger Damian Smith a try and his team the lead for the first time. England twice came back to level at 22-22 before the decisive moment arrived three minutes into injury time. Lock Martin Bayfield won a crucial lineout, England drove forward and the ball was spun out to first-five Rob Andrew. His drop kick went through the posts to snare a semifinal against either Scotland or the All Blacks.

The All Blacks were in no mood to give the Scots a break, completely dominating the match and scoring six tries, with two to Walter Little. The final score of 48-30 reflected well on Scotland who scored three excellent tries.

In the semifinals, the match between the Springboks and France was very nearly called off after unseasonable monsoon rains swamped the pitch. Kick off was delayed 90 minutes and the game unsurprisingly became a test of resolve and patience.

Springboks' flanker Ruben Kruger scored a priceless try in the first half and with halfback Joost van der Westhuizen controlling play well, they led 19-15 with minutes left. France looked to have scored a try to flanker Benazzi but it was disallowed by Welsh referee Derek Bevan, who reset the final scrum four times as France went for the push-over try but Bevan refused to give a penalty try.

England's defeat of the All Blacks in 1993 fired up both sides and it was Lomu who was central to the magnificent, near-perfect display by the All Blacks. Lomu scored the first of his four tries after two minutes when he trampled Mike Catt into the Cape Town turf. From the kick off Lomu ran 80 metres to set up a try to flanker Josh Kronfeld. No 8 Zinzan Brooke kicked an audacious drop goal to rub salt in England's wounds, before Lomu scored again before halftime. England fought back late in the game but the final score of 45-29 flattered them after such a hiding. France beat England 19-9 in the meaningless play-off for third and fourth before the final at Ellis Park matched up the game's two heavyweights. The All Blacks were odds on to win but could not repeat their blinding form on such a big stage, with South Africa playing for their lives. A vicious bug ripped through the New Zealanders in the days preceding the match and badly affected the team's preparation. Lomu's performance against England meant special attention from the Springboks and they managed to contain him throughout.

The match was a typically tight final, with no tries scored. All Blacks first-five Andrew Mehrtens missed a drop kick attempt to win it from a handy angle on the cusp of full time, but his opposite Stransky made no mistake in extra time, to give South Africa an extraordinary victory that transcended more than just rugby.

South Africa's new President Nelson Mandela, wearing a replica Springboks jersey, presented the William Web Ellis trophy to captain Pienaar in one of the most powerful images of the 20th century. The All Blacks took the defeat hard, as they were such a superb side, but could only re-set their sights on the 1999 tournament to be hosted by Wales.

Legends of the Cup: Part two

Video: Great World Cup moments - 1995

Setting the scene: The drop goal that helped heal a nation

Doubt and drama on road to '95

Shine of top ref's gold day marred

Tournament action: Springboks' first time unites divided nation

The outcome: Mandela factor unified an emerging nation

How we won it: South Africa - Magic of coaching a world-class team

All Black memories: 'We had the weapons to win it'

Tournament star: Jonah Lomu - The try scoring blitz

Legendary characters of the World Cup

- NZ Herald

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