South Africa’s best moments in the Rugby World Cup
Who will win the 2023 Rugby World Cup is a question yet to be answered.
The pool stage of the France-based tournament might have given us some good indications, however. World No.1-ranked side Ireland edged out defending champions South Africa in a 13-8 thriller at the Stade de France, while France opened with a 27-13 win over three-time winners New Zealand and hasn’t looked back since.
The Springboks remain the joint-favorites with Ireland in the Rugby World Cup betting odds at the time of writing, and it would be foolish to rule out South Africa from winning a record-breaking fourth Webb Ellis Cup following the final in Paris later this month. This could see them go back up against the boys in green and potentially avenge their narrow defeat at the Stade de France.
Memorable Moments of South Africa in the Tournament
So, as South Africa seeks to bounce back and make history at this year’s World Cup, let’s look over some of the Springboks’ most memorable moments in the tournament.
1995: World Cup win on home soil
After missing out on the first two renewals of the Rugby World Cup due to a global sporting ban being placed on the country, South Africa made their maiden appearance in 1995 and ended up winning the World Cup on home soil.
The Springboks opened proceedings with a 27-18 win over Australia and beat Romania and Canada to top their pool unbeaten. Victories over Western Samoa and France in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively set up a blockbuster final against New Zealand in Johannesburg.
With the scores tied at 9-9 following the regular 80 minutes, the Rugby World Cup final headed to extra-time for the first time. Both sides scored a penalty each, but the Springboks won it with a drop goal. In a moment of solidarity, President Nelson Mandela presented Francois Pienaar with the trophy.
1999: South Africa lands bronze
The old saying in sports states that nobody remembers the losers, but this third-place play-off between South Africa and New Zealand is worth looking back on. The Springboks appeared to be charging towards retaining the Webb Ellis Cup, with comfortable pool victories over Scotland, Uruguay and Spain, before seeing off England with a 44-21 win in Paris.
It was eventual winners Australia who ended South Africa’s run of 10-straight World Cup wins in the semi-finals, beating the Springboks 27-21 in extra-time at Twickenham Stadium. South Africa did come away with the consolation bronze medals with a 22-18 win over New Zealand at the Millenium Stadium.
2007: Second World Cup success
South Africa matched Australia as the most successful team in Rugby World Cup history with a second overall victory in 2007. Hosted in France, the Springboks once again topped their respective pool unbeaten with victories over England, Tonga, Samoa and the United States.
South Africa faced Fiji in the quarter-finals and five different players registered tries for a 37-20 win over the Pacific nation. That win set up a semi-final against Argentina, but the South Americans ran their course with a 37-13 loss at the Stade de France.
England went into the final in Paris aiming to become the first team in history to defend the Webb Ellis Cup, but the Springboks had other ideas — winning 15-6 in a low-scoring affair that saw no tries scored.
2019: Record-equalling third World Cup win
Following New Zealand’s back-to-back World Cup successes in 2011 and 2015, the All Blacks had overtaken their southern hemisphere rivals South Africa and Australia as the record holders of the Webb Ellis Cup with three wins.
However, it didn’t take the Springboks long to get back on level terms as they secured their respective third World Cup success in Japan four years ago. South Africa lost their opening pool game to the All Blacks, but bounced back with wins over Namibia, Italy and Canada to qualify for the knockouts in second.
A 26-3 victory over Japan and a narrow 19-16 win over Wales saw them progress to the final, where they faced England in a repeat of the 2007 showpiece. It was another tense affair for the most part, with South Africa leading England 18-12 going into dying embers. But late tries saw the Springboks win 32-12.