In our continued series looking back on rugby’s most memorable comebacks, CRAIG LEWIS recalls the Springboks’ epic win over England at Ellis Park in 2018.
This was one of those matches that, to witness live, was simply an unforgettable privilege.
Even before kick-off, there were fascinating storylines, with Siya Kolisi historically heading into his first Test as captain. The roar from the crowd when he took the field still remains one of my favourite memories from a live match-day experience.
It was also Rassie Erasmus’ first real international test as his tenure began proper after a one-off clash with Wales with a weakened side in Washington had ended in defeat the week before.
Yet, after all the excitement and expectation of a bright new Springbok era, Erasmus’ team was horribly cut open on defence as the visitors raced into a 24-3 lead after just 18 minutes.
After the horrors of the previous year when the Boks were hammered 57-0 by the All Blacks and thrashed by Ireland, I can still remember looking around a shell-shocked media box.
The journalists present seemed to trade weary looks that said, ‘Here we go again!’
Yet, something special then transpired.
On the quarter-hour mark, returning scrumhalf dynamo Faf de Klerk burst over to score, and you could almost feel the nerves settling and the belief flooding back into the Bok team.
Then came a try by Sbu Nkosi on Test debut, while he followed that up with another sensational five-pointer just after half an hour.
From there, the momentum flowed.
Willie le Roux scored a stunner just before half time.
In the second half, the magical storylines continued as Aphiwe Dyantyi scored his first try on debut. It was a score that sent the Springboks into a commanding 39-27 lead.
England would fight back to reduce the deficit to three points, but it would be the Springboks who came away with a famous 42-39 win that set them up for a series victory.
It was also undoubtedly the first step on the Springboks’ successful path to 2019 World Cup glory, and a comeback I will never forget.