Where were you when the Springboks won their first Tri-Nations title 16 years ago?
Two years following its inception South Africa finally broke New Zealand’s stranglehold on the Tri-Nations with ferocious tenacity in 1998.
The euphoria of the 1995 World Cup triumph had started to fade as the All Blacks had claimed the coveted southern hemisphere trophy since its inaugural year in 1996.
The Springboks were teetering on the brink of collapse after two coaches had come and gone as the national side managed only two victories from eight matches in back-to-back Tri-Nations campaigns.
As Vodacom is celebrating 20 years of empowering South Africans, we are taking a nostalgic journey to 1998.
Where were you, when Vodacom opened the world’s first cellular mall and the Springboks became the Tri-Nations champions for the first time?
We were there when Springbok coach Nick Mallett took the reins and inspired the national side to its first title in the southern hemisphere competition and etched the country’s name into the history books.
While the Boks experienced a serious victory drought in the two preceding years, this soon changed during their world-record equaling 17 consecutive Test victories.
Captain Gary Teichmann’s side opened the 1998 campaign with a narrow 14-13 victory over the Wallabies in Perth before they routed the All Blacks 13-3 in Wellington the following week.
Their performances on tour set the scene for a riveting return leg in South Africa where the Boks were on the cusp of making history.
Going into the half-time break in Durban, South Africa’s hopes of a maiden Tri-Nations title seemed to be fading as the All Blacks held a commanding 17-5 lead. The Springboks, however, showed immense resolve to launch a remarkable fightback scoring three tries in the final quarter of the Test.
With 13 minutes left in the encounter, the Boks were trailing 23-5 when Joost van der Westhuizen sparked the resurgence when he sniped from a driving maul metres from the line to score. Five minutes later Bobby Skinstad burst over the line for a converted try to get South Africa within four points of their arch-rivals.
Seven excruciating minutes had passed where the Boks showed mental and physical fortitude to keep the advancing All Blacks from the line before scoring a famous victory at the death.
The Durban crowd erupted when hooker James Dalton touched down from the back of a driving maul in the 80th minute as South Africa claimed the title with one match to spare.
To highlight their class, the 1998 Springboks claimed the whitewash in their final Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies with a 29-15 victory in Johannesburg in what was effectively a dead rubber.
Fullback Percy Montgomery turned in a phenomenal kicking performance as he converted the two tries and five penalties to make it four victories from four Tests.