Winston Aldworth

Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

1995: Legendary characters of the World Cup

Brian Lima, leading the Samoan team's war dance, was called "the Chiropractor" for his crunching tackles.
Photo / Getty Images
Brian Lima, leading the Samoan team's war dance, was called "the Chiropractor" for his crunching tackles. Photo / Getty Images

The history of the Rugby World Cup is littered with some extraordinary figures, facts and a little fiction, writes Winston Aldworth

William Webb Ellis
This is the man who - so the story goes - started the whole show and gave his name to the piece of silverware that gives New Zealand sleepless nights.

The story of the Rugby School pupil who picked up the ball and ran with it is probably a myth, or at least heavily embellished. Nonetheless his name is fixed in rugby's folklore.

Were he playing today, Webb Ellis might have made a fine practitioner of the darker arts of the game: whatever he did was clearly cheating under the rules of the day, and his school reports noted he was a good cricketer, though one "rather inclined to take unfair advantage at cricket".

Catching the ball was allowed in football at the time, running with it was not. Webb Ellis allegedly did both in a match in 1823. It wasn't until 1876 that another former pupil of Rugby School, Matthew Bloxam, wrote a piece in the school's magazine, The Meteor, sowing the seeds for the myth. He said he had learned from an unnamed source that the change from a kicking game to a handling game "originated with a town boy or foundationer of the name of Ellis, Webb Ellis".

In 1880, Bloxham went further, describing how a player was allowed to catch the ball and immediately kick it on. "Ellis, for the first time, disregarded this rule, and on catching the ball, instead of retiring backwards, rushed forwards with the ball in his hands towards the opposite goal, with what result as to the game I know not, neither do I know how this infringement of a well-known rule was followed up, or when it became, as it is now, a standing rule."

The tournament's creators
It's no surprise that some of the biggest movements in getting the first Rugby World Cup under way came from Australia. ARU president Bill McLauchlin and his successor Nicholas Shehadie had seen how the rise of television and one-day matches had changed cricket forever. And - much like the SRU today - league and Aussie rules dominated the sports pages.

By 1982, Shehadie and New Zealand's Ces Blazey were pushing the matter at the IRFB. But they were pushing against old, established powers.

"We had a difficult time," Shehadie said. "We had a bad press. The whole matter was treated as something of a joke. There were times when we were treated patronisingly and were left with the feeling that this was "their" game, not ours, and that we in the Southern Hemisphere were doing it for our own purpose. We offered the TV rights to the BBC, for instance, for US$6 million. They did not take it at all seriously and we were told that the idea would simply not work."

Arms were twisted, drinks were shared and eventually the Cup got the IRFB's backing with only two dissenting votes: Scotland and Ireland.

Louis Luyt
The South African rugby supremo had these comforting words to share with the beaten sides at the post-tournament banquet in 1995.

"There were no true world champions in the 1987 and 1991 World Cups because South Africa were not there. We have proved our point."

The point being, presumably, that no one does boorish quite like a Boer.

The beaten finalists were the first out the door, leaving the post-tournament banquet in a fit of outrage - but not before Mike Brewer and other All Blacks had shared their thoughts about hospitality with Luyt.

Next out the door were the French and English. The buffet table still being open, the Australians are thought to have stuck around.

"It's disgusting. I cannot believe what he has said," Sean Fitzpatrick said later.

Adding to the fun, Luyt singled out Welsh referee Derek Bevan for special praise. Bevan blew the whistle during the Springboks' semifinal against France - a match the Boks won 19-15 after Bevan controversially denied the French a last-minute try.

To the Welshman's obvious embarrassment Luyt presented him with a 1000 pound gold watch, calling him "the most wonderful referee in the world".

"If everyone does not think that, I certainly do. I would ask him to step up and receive this gift as the outstanding referee in the World Cup," the Sarfu president said.

Suzie the Waitress
Like the Tooth Fairy and Santa, believing in Suzie the waitress can at first feel comforting, but ultimately reveals a childish naivety.

If our understanding of William Webb Ellis' deeds has become murky with time, pity poor Suzie, whose very existence is a matter of great debate.

For the record, there seems little doubt that many in the All Black camp suffered from food poisoning in the 1995 final. But a nefarious waitress? Unlikely.

Pinetree blames the milk: "I had a big night the night before," said manager Colin Meads. "The South African Rugby Union was shouting all the managers. And being Colin Meads, I thought I had to hold up my end and out-do all the other managers. "I was feeling not too fit the next day. And often when you are feeling like that you have a couple of glasses of milk that puts you right.

"So at lunchtime I had a couple of these big glasses of milk. And I reckon that is what did us, it was in the milk."

Meads said the illness that went through the squad cost the team their winning chance, but it was accidental. "Suzie is just a fictitious person as far as I was concerned. I don't think anyone was called Suzie."

Laurie Kay
Every little thing mattered in the 1995 final, and captain Laurie Kay, the pilot of ZS SAN "Lebombo" a 747-200 jumbo jet did his bit.

Kay's flyover - which started a drinking tradition in South Africa that involves, dangerously, taking a swig every time a 747 flies overhead - added to the sense of something other-worldly going on. Ask anyone who was at the match for their memories of the day and being straffed by a jumbo that was just 200 feet clear of the grandstand is high on the list.

Captain Kay was the airline's most experienced 747 pilot and also did stunt flying and aerobatic shows. He approached the ground at 140 knots, just above stall speed, before banging the throttles down and filling the stadium with noise.

Brian Lima
On a quiet day in Sydney, you can still hear the echo of Brian Lima's bone-adjusting thump on Springbok winger Derick Hougaard.

The Boks won the match, but it's fair to assume more post-match ice was applied to bodies in the winners' changing-room than in the Samoan one.

Lima's tackle was typical of the man known as "the Chiropractor". Some seasoned rugby followers at the ground thought for a moment they had actually witnessed a man being killed in a match (Hougaard, to his credit, played on).

Lima, a fleet-footed winger, was the youngest player at the 1991 tournament and by the time he rolled out for his fifth he had become a chugging, thumping midfielder and at 35, one of the oldest at the 2007 event.

A stalwart of Samoa, Lima gave his side his all for the best part of two decades.

- NZ Herald

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