It was the game that had everything – apart from tries.
The presence of rugby’s first global superstar, the great Jonah Lomu, a build-up mired in controversy, and the triumphant return of South Africa to the sporting arena as a country reborn, led by the inspirational Nelson Mandela. It's no wonder the final of Rugby World Cup 1995 transcends the sport and was the subject of Hollywood blockbuster, Invictus.
And the good news for rugby supporters is that they’ll be able to rewind the clock back a quarter of a century this Saturday and watch all the drama unfold once again, as the entire match will be streamed live on the official Rugby World Cup Facebook page and World Rugby's YouTube channel, complete with live blogging and commentary from those who were there that momentous day.
Lomu threat led to special measures
Having largely nullified the threat of Lomu by starving the giant winger of the ball and eliminating any space when he did get his hands on it, South Africa had disarmed the All Blacks of their most powerful weapon.
Nelson Mandela congratulating Francois Pienaar, South Africa's captain, on that historic home World Cup win, 1995. pic.twitter.com/GdWKg3uz3O— History In Pictures (@HistoryInPics) December 7, 2013
“We were all sitting around one week before the final watching New Zealand’s earlier games in the tournament and wondering how we were going to play against this bloke,” recalled Springbok fly-half and match-winning hero, Joel Stransky. “To prove just how significant an influence he was, we changed our entire game plan to counter his presence and thankfully it worked.”
Andrew Mehrtens twice gave New Zealand the lead in the first half with penalties. But two penalties and a drop goal from Stransky saw South Africa lead 9-6 at half-time.
The tension was palpable inside a packed Ellis Park, and the second half proved to be tighter than the first with Mehrtens’ 55th-minute drop goal the only points scored.
With the scores locked at 9-9, the 1995 final became the first in the tournament’s short history to go to extra-time.
Mehrtens stepped up to slot a penalty and hand New Zealand the lead for the third time in the match. The 1987 champions looked to be in the ascendency.
However, this was never going to be a match to stick to the script. Stransky levelled the scores again with another penalty before applying the decisive blow seven minutes from time with a 30-metre drop goal.
16th man helps Boks make history
“It was just a phenomenal game. We could have won it before full-time and New Zealand could have won it before full-time and then we went into extra-time,” recalled winning captain Francois Pienaar.
“Playing at home definitely was an advantage. The crowd support was unreal and gave us that extra edge needed for a close match like that.”
Mandela presented the Webb Ellis Cup to Pienaar wearing the same number six Springbok jersey, a picture that symbolised the new-found unity in South Africa and captured the imagination of the world.
The final classic Rugby World Cup match being shown by World Rugby this weekend is:
- Sunday, 26 April – RWC 1995 – Scotland v Samoa, 16:00 BST