And not just on the scoreboard either because, according to replacement eighthman Rudolf Straeuli, the Springboks managed to rub salt in the wounds of the disconsolate All Black at the final scrum.
Straeuli’s role in Joel Stransky’s famous World Cup-winning drop goal is not often mentioned but, having come on for Mark Andrews, it was he who picked up the ball at the back of that scrum and set in motion the move that sent the ball to the flyhalf, even though something else had been planned.
“I just remember going on to the field and catching a 22 kickoff. Then we had the scrum, it wheeled a bit and it was just instinct, I called a back-row move because we couldn’t go the side we wanted, you can’t play against the wheel. Joel then called for the ball and the rest is history.
“But there was still time left after that and on that last scrum, on our tryline, I remember even Joost [van der Westhuizen] joined in. And then the scrum opened up and we were able to give Sean Fitzpatrick a few shots,” Straeuli chuckled.
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge for Straeuli since 1995, including his own spell as the Springbok coach at the 2003 World Cup that ended in failure, and he is now the chief executive of the Golden Lions Rugby Union, having also coached the Sharks with some success. But his memories of the World Cup are inextricably linked to another highlight in his life.
“Every time I think about the World Cup I remember my daughter, Rieze’s birthday, because she was born 11 hours after the Australia game, my first child. Morne du Plessis organised for me to go and see her, but there was a lot of emotion after the final because we met up with family for the first time in six weeks. We went to Midrand to celebrate …” Straeuli recalled, before adding that the memories are tinged with sadness because of the two integral squad members who have passed away since 1995 – coach Kitch Christie and fellow loose forward Ruben Kruger.
To prove that great memories never die, wing Chester Williams can even remember what call was made at the fateful scrum that led to Stransky’s drop goal.
“We were going to play Black – a move that involved Rudolf and Francois Pienaar and then Andre Joubert would run on the outside, but at the last second Joel saw that Graeme Bachop [All Blacks scrumhalf] was putting a lot of pressure on Joost, so he cancelled the move and went for the drop goal,” Williams said.
“When we arrived, with the amazing crowd, we all believed we could win, then 20 minutes before kickoff, Nelson Mandela is in our changeroom! This world icon, wearing our jersey, and he said he was here as our biggest fan. We then all followed Kobus Wiese at the haka, we decided to take on the challenge.
“My happiest day before that was getting back into the squad, but that day I saw people hugging, crying and embracing in the stadium and I saw the Rainbow Nation for the first time. It started before the final with coaching clinics in Khayelitsha and Soweto,” Williams said.
Francois Pienaar quote – “It’s amazing to think that it’s 20 years since I had the incredible privilege of standing on the same podium as Nelson Mandela. While the game was on, we had the sense that something big was happening, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would have such a deep impact in our country. We made big steps then, celebrating together for the first time.”