Ahead of the Springboks opening Rugby World Cup match against the All Blacks, JOHN GOLIATH looks at some of South Africa’s memorable moments at the tournament ahead of rugby’s showpiece event.
JP Pietersen’s try-saving tackle against Fiji in the quarter-finals
The day before their 2007 quarter-final against Fiji, the Boks watched on as the All Blacks and the Wallabies were dumped out of the tournament. The Boks’ pack duly came out firing, as they looked to overpower Fiji. The South Africans raced into a good lead, but Fiji hit back with their fast-paced attacking game and leveled the game up 20-20. The Boks regained the lead through a Percy Montgomery penalty, but the momentum was still with the South Sea Islanders. Fiji took a quick lineout in the Bok 22 with 14 minutes to play. Lock Savenaca Rawaca then found himself free on the outside and gunned for the left corner. However, a young JP Pietersen came out of nowhere and amazingly managed to tackle him into touch just before he managed to do the ball down. The Boks then regrouped and won the game 37-20; comfortable looking on the scoreboard but without Pietersen’s intervention it could’ve read very differently.
Danie Rossouw’s World Cup-saving tackle in ’07
England wing Mark Cueto maintains he managed to dot the ball down before his foot touched the chalk in the championship match in 2007. However, Australian TMO, Stuart Dickinson, who had been a thorn in the flesh of the Springboks on so many occasions in the past, adjudged that he was indeed touch before he grounded the ball. Had that try been awarded the final could have had a different outcome. But it was thanks to the efforts of Danie Rossouw, who somehow managed to get over the left corner and tackle Cueto into touch. It was classic covering from the No 8, who only played in that position after Pierre Spies was ruled out of the tournament because of injury. Rossouw was one of the unsung heroes of the Boks’ 2007 World Cup campaign.
Bryan Habana sets a new try-scoring record
It was evident from his first touch in a Springbok jersey that there was something special about Bryan Habana, who was named after former Manchester United and England soccer star Bryan Robson. He scored with his first touch in international rugby in 2004 against England and nine years later surpassed the late, great Joost van der Westhuizen as the Boks’ record try-scorer at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand. Before that Habana had gone 15 months without scoring a try, but again showed his class on the biggest stage of them all. The former Vodacom Bulls speedster scored the record-breaking try in the 22nd minute of the Boks’ 87-0 demolition of Namibia in a pool fixture.
Habana joins Jonah in the record books
Habana cemented his place among the greats of the game at the 2015 World Cup in England, where he equaled Jonah Lomu’s record of 15 World Cup tries with a hat trick against the United States in the pool stages. Habana was instrumental in the Boks’ success at the 2007 World Cup when he scored eight tries, including four against Samoa in the pool stages and two crucial tries against Argentina in the semi-final to also equal Jonah Lomu’s record for the most tries at a single tournament. Habana retired from all rugby in 2018, and will go down as one the greatest players to ever wear a Springbok jersey.
Fourie du Preez’s late show downs Wales in World Cup quarter-final
In 2015 Bok coach Heyneke Meyer was criticised for taking players to the World Cup who were short of game time following injuries. Many of them were part of the class of 2007 and were in the twilight of their careers. The Boks looked short of a gallop in their opening match against Japan, with those aging stars looking rusty and off the pace. However, the Boks regrouped and managed to still top their pool and book a quarter-final spot against a dangerous Wales team. The great Fourie du Preez was part of that team and had come into his own after a slow start to the tournament. Wales led the Boks going into the last 10 minutes of an epic encounter. But the Boks snatched victory in the 75th minute when Duane Vermeulen broke down the blindside off a scrum, before offloading to the master scrumhalf who scored in the left corner.
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