The Springboks of today aren’t much bigger than the team that won the 1995 World Cup. Bar Jonah Lomu, the 1995 All Blacks are smaller than their contemporaries in every position. JON CARDINELLI reports.
24 June 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the 1995 World Cup final at Ellis Park. Twenty years ago, Joel Stransky kicked a drop-goal in extra-time to give South Africa a 15-12 victory over the All Blacks.
Back then, the Boks were known, and feared, for their superior size and physicality. And yet, it was a New Zealander who captured the world’s imagination for his rare combination of size, power and speed.
Two decades on, and Jonah Lomu is still a titan among giants. In that 1995 World Cup final, the 20-year-old winger was the tallest and heaviest of all 14 starting backline players. And if one is to compare Lomu to some of the giants of today, he is still in a class of his own, at least from a physical point of view.
Julian Savea has been described by current All Blacks coach Steve Hansen as the next Lomu. Hansen has even gone as far to say that Savea has a more complete skill-set. The 24-year-old has already scored 30 Test tries, and it shouldn’t be long before he goes past Lomu’s tally of 37.
But in terms of stature, Savea will never measure up to Lomu. For starters, the giant of the 1995 World Cup would be a giant even by today’s standards. Somebody as big as Savea would still need to look up to him.
Lomu is the exception as far as the All Blacks class of 1995 is concerned. Indeed, if we look at the players who featured at that World Cup final 20 years ago, and compare them to the players who have featured recently, it's the latter group that boasts the superior bulk and height.
For the purposes of symmetry, let’s compare the two teams that played in that 1995 final with the current Bok and All Blacks teams. In terms of the latter, let’s highlight the set of players who competed in the last match between these two rivals, which was on 4 October 2014 at Ellis Park. The majority of these players will, in all likelihood, turn out for the Boks and All Blacks later this year.
The common belief is Bok coaches have continued to favour bigger and bigger players over the past 20 years. But when one looks at the comparisons below, it’s clear New Zealand players are bigger than before, or at least coaches are favouring bigger players.
Savea is the only player who is smaller than his 1995 counterpart. Every other player in the modern-day team weighs more. Apart from Lomu, there are only three other examples where a player is slightly shorter than his predecessor (Aaron Smith, Keven Mealamu and Joe Moody). But it's largely a bigger All Blacks side than before.
The same cannot be said of the Boks, at least not to such an extent. The 1995 Boks possessed backs such as André Joubert and James Small, who would have been on par with today’s standards. Centre Japie Mulder and scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen would have been classified as big for their positions even if they had to turn out for the Boks in 2015.
The 1995 pack weighed a collective 902kg, which is slightly more than the current forwards’ combined weight of 894kg. The All Blacks forwards have bulked up a lot more if you consider the 1995 unit weighed 859kg, and the pack that last fronted the Boks was a significantly heavier 900kg.
See the size comparisons of both sets of teams below.
1995 vs 2014 (South Africa)
15. André Joubert (1.87m, 92kg), Willie le Roux (1.86m, 90kg)
14. James Small (1.82m, 89kg), Cornal Hendricks (1.89m, 90kg)
13. Japie Mulder (1.84m, 99kg), Jan Serfontein (1.87m, 97kg)
12. Hennie le Roux (1.76m, 80kg), Jean de Villiers (1.90m, 100kg)
11. Chester Williams (1.74m, 84kg), Bryan Habana (1.80m, 90kg)
10. Joel Stransky (1.79m, 84kg), Handré Pollard (1.89m, 97kg)
9. Joost van der Westhuizen (1.88m, 92kg), Francois Hougaard (1.79m, 91kg)
8. Mark Andrews (2.00m, 112kg), Duane Vermeulen (1.93m, 108kg)
7. Ruben Kruger (1.89m, 102kg), Teboho Mohoje (1.93m, 108kg)
6. Francois Pienaar (1.91m, 105kg), Marcell Coetzee (1.91m, 106kg)
5. Hannes Strydom (1.99m, 115kg), Victor Matfield (2.00m, 108kg)
4. Kobus Wiese (1.99m, 125kg), Eben Etzebeth (2.04m, 117kg)
3. Balie Swart (1.85m, 113kg), Jannie du Plessis (1.88m, 120kg)
2. Chris Rossouw (1.82m, 105kg), Bismarck du Plessis (1.89m, 112kg)
1. Os du Randt (1.90m, 125kg), Tendai Mtawarira (1.83m, 115kg)
1995 vs 2014 (New Zealand)
15. Glen Osborne (1.82m, 90kg), Israel Dagg (1.86m, 96kg)
14. Jeff Wilson (1.80m, 89kg), Ben Smith (1.86m, 93kg)
13. Frank Bunce (1.80m, 95kg), Conrad Smith (1.86m, 95kg)
12. Walter Little (1.78m, 90kg), Malaki Fekitoa (1.87m, 99kg)
11. Jonah Lomu (1.96m, 119kg), Julian Savea (1.92m, 108kg)
10. Andrew Mehrtens (1.77m, 87kg), Beauden Barrett (1.87m, 92kg)
9. Graeme Bachop (1.77m, 82kg), Aaron Smith (1.71m, 84kg)
8. Zinzan Brooke (1.93m, 106kg), Kieran Read (1.93m, 111kg)
7. Josh Kronfeld (1.85m, 103kg), Richie McCaw (1.87m, 107kg)
6. Mike Brewer (1.96m, 103kg), Jerome Kaino (1.96m, 105kg)
5. Robin Brooke (1.98m, 109kg), Sam Whitelock (2.02m, 116kg)
4. Ian Jones (1.98m, 103kg), Jeremy Thrush (1.98m, 115kg)
3. Olo Brown (1.82m, 110kg), Owen Franks (1.85m, 119kg)
2. Sean Fitzpatrick (1.82m, 107kg), Keven Mealamu (1.81m, 109kg)
1. Craig Dowd (1.90m, 118kg), Joe Moody (1.88m, 118kg)
Photo:Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images