In their first attempt at a World Cup the Springboks prevailed. Against pre-match favourites the All Blacks no less.

It was an extraordinary effort which did not deserve the "lost in translation" comments bombastic SARFU boss Louis Luyt delivered in a gloating address at the official farewell dinner.

The Springboks did not deserve it, nor the All Blacks nor beaten semifinalists France and England, who had done much to boost this unification tournament.

In late June 1995 at Ellis Park, the stadium which had been rebuilt a dozen years earlier, the Springboks triumphed 15-12 after a dramatic extra-time. Not one try in 100 minutes of aching endeavour from two teams aching to reach rugby's ultimate prize. This match didn't need a try to ice its contribution to world rugby, it was the ultimate struggle for the underdog and the stricken, rivals who oozed gladiatorial combat throughout their sporting history.


Everything about the atmosphere that day and throughout the wild night-time celebrations and beyond contributed to this sporting palette. It did not feel contrived or artificial like much of the ceremonial posturing at major sports events.

Shosholoza, the black workers' song, lifted our eyes and spirits until the end of a long tournament. It felt real and still stirred us. Anticipation about the final lifted as soon as you arrived near Ellis Park. There was a constant hum throughout the area as spectators, officials, media and players edged towards the afternoon kickoff.

Among the 62,500 crowd, there was a warm belief the World Cup would help the country's progress towards justice and social change.

All that energy converged on an unkempt suburb in Johannesburg where the celebrations contrasted with the Afrikaaners' defiance three years earlier when they sang Die Stem before the same rivals played.

Levels lifted further with the theatre of Zulu warriors and more songs before it exploded with the arrival of the President Nelson Mandela wearing a No6 Springbok jersey. That pandemonium continued as ref Ed Morrison whistled time on and Andrew Mehrtens kicked off this epic test.