'A Captain's Cup' - an exclusive eight-part Radio Sport podcast series every Friday in which Louis Herman-Watt and Daniel McHardy interview every Rugby World Cup-winning captain. In episode 3, Francois Pienaar discusses the events which marred the Springboks' 1995 success, how Jonah Lomu was kept in check in the final, and the impact of former president Nelson Mandela.

A Captain's Cup episode 3: Francois Pienaar

Former Springboks captain Francois Pienaar has revealed how the historic Rugby World Cup triumph in 1995 was overshadowed by post-match events - forcing him to lead a walkout of his team from a celebratory dinner.

In Episode 3 of Radio Sport's exclusive eight-part series A Captain's Cup, Pienaar, whose Boks won an epic final 15-12 after extra time, lifts the lid on former South African rugby boss Louis Luyt's acrimonious comments - that his country would have won the 1987 and 1991 tournaments had it not been for their international ban over the apartheid atrocities - ruffled a few feathers.


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

Luyt also presented Welsh referee Derek Bevan - whose controversial call handed South Africa victory in the semifinal against France - with a gold watch worth $2000 at the same banquet.

Speaking to Radio Sport's Daniel McHardy, Pienaar confirmed the Boks team had left the banquet after Luyt's comments.

"It [Luyt giving Bevan a watch] was wrong. It definitely pissed me off. And also what happened after the final, the evening. I was embarrassed by it," Pienaar said.

When asked if he led his team out in protest, Pienaar said: "I did" before jokingly adding, "Can I draw a line in the sand with that one, please?".

A Captain's Cup, part 1: David Kirk and the 1987 All Blacks
A Captain's Cup, part 2: Nick Farr-Jones and the 1991 Wallabies

The Boks claimed victory through a Joel Stransky drop goal late in extra time, after a large number of All Blacks had mysteriously fallen ill a few days earlier from a suspected bout of food poisoning.

According to Pienaar, the Boks' plan to counter an "insane" Jonah Lomu in the final was devised last-minute.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela, Springboks captain Francois Pienaar and the Webb Ellis trophy. Photo / Photosport
Former South African president Nelson Mandela, Springboks captain Francois Pienaar and the Webb Ellis trophy. Photo / Photosport

Though Lomu announced himself to the rugby world with seven tries during the tournament (including four in the semifinal against England), he was unable to penetrate the South African defence.

"Jonah Lomu is one of the greatest athletes to ever play the game. I don't know if we'll see the likes of him again. He became the first international rugby superstar. What he did in '95 was just incredible," Pienaar said.

"You were just gobsmacked that this guy was so big, so fast, so skilfull ... and he's going to play against you.

"The team, I think Brendan (Venter) and Hennie (le Roux), chatted quite a bit about this. We realised because of his (Lomu's) speed and strength if you give him the outside gap, he's gone. We had to force him into traffic and that was our gameplan, to force him into traffic and to stop him from scoring tries.

"The respect we had for Jonah Lomu in South Africa relayed onto the rugby field – he never ever scored against us."

Pienaar famously lifted the Webb Ellis trophy with iconic former South African president Nelson Mandela by his side.

Mandela's impact on the team - and a divided country on the brink of civil war - was absolutely pivotal, Pienaar said.

Yet, it almost had a detrimental effect on the Boks.

Jonah Lomu terrified opponents during the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Photo / Photosport
Jonah Lomu terrified opponents during the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Photo / Photosport

"Through the tournament, there was this interaction with greatness, with Madiba. That had a tremendous effect but when he walked into our changeroom [moments before the start of the final] … I'm going through strategy, keeping the guys calm, and there's a knock on the door.

"He walks in and he's wearing the Springbok [jersey]. That was just the most emotional time. When he turns around I see my number 6 is on his back. When he left we had to refocus the side - we had to become more calm, more focused."

The All Blacks knew they were in trouble before the kickoff, Pienaar claims.

"Later [All Blacks captain] Sean Fitzpatrick said to me he saw the tears running down the [South African] guys' cheeks and he thought: 'This is going to be a tough one'."

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