This was the tournament that saw a new beginning for South Africa and for rugby. As was brilliantly told by John Carlin, in his book Playing the Enemy, President Mandela used the Springboks to unite South Africa. World Rugby had been smart enough to realise that not only did the tournament have to be hosted by one nation in 1995, but that the only choice was South Africa.
Apartheid had collapsed; Mandela was in power and the Springboks were out of isolation. What better way to welcome the new South Africa into the fold than give them the hosting rights?
The second story that played out in 1995 was the drive towards professionalism. It had become faintly ridiculous that the whole business was still amateur – that the players were having to beg for time off work while the organisers made millions. It was no surprise that a rebel professional league concept nearly managed to steal the players and the game.
STAR OF THE TOURNAMENT
There was one man who owned the 1995 event. JONAH LOMU [above] came of age in South Africa and put rugby on the world map. He was phenomenal. In his prime and at 120kg, he could run round or over anything. He destroyed Ireland, Wales and Scotland and then to complete his own personal Grand Slam he scored four tries against England. It was that performance against England that turned him into a global superstar and opened the eyes of TV moguls to the potential rugby had as a professional sport.
HOW IT PLAYED OUT
The All Blacks didn’t take long to establish they were in a different league to everyone else. They were playing this pass and run game that no one could cope with and their basic skills were sharper and better.
The Boks were another real contender – a point they proved when they beat defending champions Australia in the opening game. England and France were also possibilities to win it but the former were blown off the park in the semifinal by a rampant All Black side and the latter were desperately unlucky to be denied a valid try in the last minute of their semifinal in Durban.
Once the Boks had scraped through to the final, maybe it was always fate that they would somehow find a way to win as the whole sub-plot of unification needed a fairytale ending. The country had put behind old rifts and was healing behind the most unlikely icon and on the day of the final, the strength of that emotion was huge. Perhaps the All Blacks were overwhelmed at playing against an entire nation and it didn’t help that, for whatever reason, many of them were desperately sick. But in the end...the tournament got an ending that seemed to be about right.
GAME OF THE TOURNAMENT
The semifinal in Durban between France and South Africa had incredible tension and drama with a late try not being awarded to the French. But the game that caught everyone’s imagination was the other semifinal in Cape Town where the All Blacks played at a new level.
They had plotted revenge – having lost to England in 1993 – for the better part of a year and had practised specifically for that semifinal months in advance. Lomu scored early and from there the ALL BLACKS grew in confidence, running from deep and playing at a relentless pace that left ENGLAND destroyed before half-time.
LOMU running over the top of Mike Catt in the semifinal.
ZINZAN BROOKE dropping a goal without even pausing to set himself.
An all out BRAWL between CANADA AND SOUTH AFRICA in the pool rounds.
The FRENCH BACKS deciding to SHAVE THEIR HEADS and GROW BEARDS.
JOEL STRANSKY’S composure and excellence in the final.
MANDELA wearing his Springbok No 6 shirt.
TOTAL CONTROL: The All Blacks were way too good for England.
JoelStranskywould drop the winning goal.
Springboks celebrating their victory.
Jef Wilson takes the high ball.
France edged Scotland in