Veteran prop Jannie du Plessis has recounted the jubilation of seeing the Springboks lift the 2019 World Cup trophy after experiencing first-hand how the team had been written off, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with SARugbymag.co.za, Du Plessis reflected on the Boks’ triumphant journey in Japan, with the former 70-Test cap front rower having been based in France with Montpellier at the time.
As an animated Du Plessis recalled, the Montpellier players had drawn participating World Cup teams out of a hat to see who they would support before the competition began.
Du Plessis initially drew Ireland, but managed to convince fellow South African Henry Immelman to swap with him so he could support the Springboks.
‘When they saw that I took South Africa, they laughed,’ Du Plessis said. ‘So I thought, do these guys rate us so little, that they would laugh at us?’
An opening loss to the All Blacks seemed to vindicate that point of view, but Du Plessis says he remained quietly confident about the team’s prospects.
‘After the first game it seemed we went into this dark-horse lane where know one was talking about the Boks, no remarks or talk of even being outsiders. I was watching them play and with the type of rugby they enforced, it was very effective and they killed off teams.
‘As the playoffs came … Things went quite quickly, we had quite a big New Zealand contingent at Montpellier and they were pretty confident, but when England beat them I just knew we would go on to win the tournament after also managing to overcome Wales. I think the Boks just played a type of game suited to finals, important players were playing good rugby and the scrum was performing well …’
Du Plessis says they celebrated like crazy when Makazole Mapimpi scored a crucial try in the second half of the final, which effectively sealed the result.
‘When Makazole Mapimpi scored that try, I think the neighbours thought there was someone on drugs, because I was just so happy. From being laughed at and [viewed as] complete outsiders, we became champions.
‘It just made you realise that when guys get together with one common goal bigger than themselves and are prepared to sacrifice their own personal success for something better, then anything is possible.’