In the third instalment of a new article series from the SA Rugby magazine team, DYLAN JACK reflects on a World Cup final that solidified his love for the game.
The day 20 October 2007 will live long in the minds of many South Africans who were there to witness Jake White’s team claim the country’s second Rugby World Cup.
Current Springbok captain Siya Kolisi – who would lead the Boks to their next World Cup – recalled watching the game inside a tavern in the Eastern Cape and being inspired by how it brought the country together.
For me, it was the day when I really took to rugby as a sport and realised its emotional power. Growing up, I had always been more of a football fanatic and would religiously watch my beloved Manchester United every weekend. I liked rugby fine enough, but never really got caught up in it until the events of 2007, literally ending the World Cup final with tears streaming down as I watched John Smit lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
The game itself was a brutal slog, as both teams had to fight for every inch of territory. It was nevertheless captivating viewing, with more drama than one of my mother’s favourite daily soap operas.
Looking back, the Boks always seemed to be in control of the match, even though it didn’t feel that way at the time. There was an assurance from the team that came through their core of experienced players and an excellently organised defensive and kick-chase system.
Memorably, they survived a scare when Mark Cueto went over for a disallowed try that is still debated to this day. My family was very much convinced that Danie Rossouw had made it back to drag Cueto’s toe in touch, but we watched nervously and prepared ourselves for the worst as TMO Stuart Dickinson went through replay after replay of the incident, only to decide not to award the try after struggling to get frame-by-frame pictures from the French broadcasters.
Then there was the controversial moment when Toby Flood sent Percy Montgomery over the advertising boards and into a television camera. The English flyhalf was fortunate not to see a yellow card for the incident, with referee Alain Rolland not even penalising him, leading to a few choice words from inside the Jack living room.
Frans Steyn then provided yet another reminder of why he was considered as the up-and-coming talent in world rugby as he grabbed the ball when the Boks were awarded a penalty just inside England’s half and confidently popped it over to give them what would prove to be an unassailable nine-point lead.
It would be another 12-year wait for South Africans to see the Springboks taste World Cup glory – once again beating England in the final. This time, I was privileged enough to get a first-hand experience of the country-wide celebrations in the week that followed, witnessing as the Boks took the Webb Ellis Cup through Cape Town.
The way in which the country was brought to a near standstill to come together in that week provided me with another reminder of why sport is so important in this country.
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