James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Rugby: A year the All Blacks and fans would rather forget

Great clashes

In terms of vintage All Black years, 1994 was one they and their fans would probably rather forget.

The All Blacks had just lost their home series against France 2-0, including a last-gasp, shock 23-20 defeat in the second test at Eden Park when Jean-Luc Sadourny scored his famous try from the end of the earth.

The Springboks - on their first New Zealand tour since 1981 and their reintroduction from the international rugby wilderness in 1992 - arrived not long after.

Led by charismatic captain Francois Pienaar the visitors pushed the All Blacks in close matches but lost in Dunedin (22-14) and Wellington (13-9) before heading to Eden Park for the dead rubber.

Former All Black halfback Graeme Bachop, who played alongside his brother and five eighth Stephen in the match, remembers a flat game in which nothing seemed to work.

"We had already won the first two in Dunedin and Wellington and were keen on making it 3-nil but I can remember the game being flat and we couldn't really get anything going."

The Springboks were ahead 12-9 at halftime and eventually outscored the All Blacks two tries to none with only the boot of All Black fullback Shane Howarth, who kicked six penalty goals, keeping them in the match.

The game petered out to an 18-all draw ending, by their standards, a miserable year at home for the All Blacks. Things got worse when the team lost 20-16 in Sydney to the Wallabies later that month.

Bachop said 1994 was the last time New Zealand lost at Eden Park and was probably the start of a new chapter in All Black history.

"We played well but were unlucky to lose in Sydney [the Wallabies won 20-16] with Goldie [Jeff Wilson] doing that big, flash dive and Gregan knocking the ball out of his hands."

- NZ Herald

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