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From Nelson Mandela to Siya Kolisi — Springboks’ rich World Cup history with All Blacks

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South Africa and New Zealand meet in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final at the Stade de France with the All Blacks holding a three-two head to head advantage in previous meetings at the sport’s quadrennial showpiece event.

We take a look back on them…

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1995: The Pienaar/Mandela moment

The photograph of Nelson Mandela handing the trophy to white Springbok captain Francois Pienaar is perhaps the most iconic rugby image of all time.

It captured a unifying moment that even the sport seen as apartheid’s last bastion had bought into the new South Africa.

The fairytale outcome itself was a surprise as the New Zealanders, armed with imposing wing Jonah Lomu, looked unstoppable.

But stopped they were — the team a shadow of the one that had scored 45 points in the semi-final alone against England — with the match going into extra time.

Springbok fly-half Joel Stransky settled it with a drop goal for a final score of 15-12.

If there was one man who could ruin the feelgood atmosphere it was South African rugby supremo Louis Luyt and he duly delivered with ill-judged clumsy remarks at the post-match dinner.

“There were no true world champions in the 1987 and 1991 World Cups because South Africa were not there,” said Luyt, leading to the New Zealanders walking out of the dinner en masse.

Luyt was forced to resign in 1998 amid claims of racism.

The Springboks’ first black Test skipper Siya Kolisi, who could lift the Webb Ellis trophy for a second time on Saturday, said that he was four at the time and so did not watch the final but that it had been an enormous moment for the sport.

“The significance of the game is huge. It opened a lot of doors for me and many others.

“It was a huge game for South Africa in general.”

1999: The ‘kissing your grandmother’ final

The two heavyweights met again in a final four years later — only it was the one nobody wants to be involved in, the third-place playoff.

Once again the Boks came off best edging the All Blacks 22-18, the winners scoring the only try of the encounter.

New Zealand could have been forgiven for not being on song, their morale diminished by another crushing defeat when favourites, losing 43-31 in the semi-finals to an inspired French team.

“Playing in the play-off game was like having to lip kiss your grandmother,” All Blacks fly-half Andrew Mehrtens told The Herald Scotland in 2009.

“It was awful. It was a game no-one wanted to play. It was an ugly game and we deserved to lose.”

2003: ABs finally taste success

New Zealand got a measure of revenge with a routine 28-9 victory over the Springboks in the quarter-finals.

This time the All Blacks hammered home their superiority. They had gone into the match on the back of six successive wins over their opponents, with a sparkling performance by their playmaker Carlos Spencer.

It set up a semi-final with bitter rivals and hosts Australia.

“I would hardly say that we are white-hot at the moment and, while the Australian media are laying into the Wallabies, they are a team you write off at your peril,” said New Zealand skipper Reuben Thorne.

Those turned out to be prescient words as Eddie Jones’s Wallabies upset the New Zealanders 22-10 in the last-four clash.

2015: ABs ‘composure’ wins the day

Twenty years on from the defeat in the final, New Zealand secured their most notable victory over the Springboks at a World Cup by edging them 20-18 in the semi-finals.

Beauden Barrett — who will line up on Saturday — scored one of their two tries as the New Zealanders’ defence held out for the last 10 minutes.

“I am delighted at the composure the players showed in a do‑or‑die game but tribute should be paid to South Africa who played a full part,” said head coach Steve Hansen.

This time round the All Blacks backed up the win over the South Africans by beating Australia in the final to win their first World Cup outside of New Zealand.


Extraordinarily both were drawn in the same pool in Japan and it was the All Blacks who came out on top with a 23-13 victory.

Their 15th successive World Cup win set them on course for a record-extending third successive title.

However, it was to be South Africa who were to make history as they became the first team to lose a pool game and go on to lift the Webb Ellis trophy, beating England, who had defeated New Zealand in the semi-finals.


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