A Historical Rivalry: All Blacks vs. South Africa at the Rugby World Cup


A Historical Rivalry: All Blacks vs. South Africa at the Rugby World Cup

rugby football, rugby ireland, Rugby World Cup

When you think of rugby rivalries, none springs to mind quicker than the enduring battle between the All Blacks and the Springboks. For over a century, these two fierce combatants have engaged in iconic matches, crafting unforgettable moments that have enraptured fans worldwide. With time, this rivalry transitioned onto the grandest stage of them all – the Rugby World Cup.

The All Blacks first crossed paths with South Africa on the World Cup stage during the iconic 1995 Rugby World Cup final. This tournament, which united South Africa as the Rainbow Nation, introduced the world to the phenomenal Jonah Lomu and has since been immortalized in the Hollywood movie “Invictus.”

After nearly three decades, these teams are set to meet once again in a Rugby World Cup final. A place in history awaits the victor, as they will become the first men’s team in Rugby World Cup history to claim four titles. Let’s take a journey through the history of clashes between the All Blacks and South Africa at the Rugby World Cup.

All Blacks vs. South Africa at the Rugby World Cup:

Matches Played: 5

Wins: All Blacks 3, South Africa 2

Points Scored: All Blacks 102, South Africa 77

1995, Johannesburg: A Final for the Ages

The historic 1995 Rugby World Cup final between the All Blacks and South Africa marked a pivotal moment in the sport’s history. This match occurred shortly after the end of apartheid in South Africa, symbolizing the nation’s unity and reconciliation. Both teams reached the final undefeated, with the All Blacks defeating England 45-29 in the semifinals, and South Africa narrowly edging out France 19-15 in their knockout clash. Nothing could separate the teams at the end of regular time, with the scores locked at 9-9. Early in extra time, penalties were traded before South Africa’s first-five-eighth, Joel Stransky, landed a clutch drop goal, securing a 15-12 victory for South Africa. This triumph sparked incredible scenes across South Africa, and the sight of South African President Nelson Mandela, adorned in a Springbok jersey and cap, presenting the Webb Ellis Cup to South African captain Francois Pienaar is considered one of the most iconic moments in sports history.

South Africa 15 (Joel Stransky 3 pen, 2 dg) All Blacks 12 (Andrew Mehrtens 3 pen, 1 dg). HT: 9-6

1999, Cardiff: Battle for Bronze

A try by wing Breyton Paulse and a pair of drop goals by fullback Percy Montgomery helped South Africa secure a 22-18 victory over New Zealand in the World Cup third-place playoff at the Millennium Stadium. South Africa led New Zealand 16-12 at halftime, and the 1995 champions deserved their win against an All Blacks side that suffered their second successive loss, following a shock semifinal defeat to France. “We wanted to do this for ourselves, for our honor, for our country,” said Springbok skipper Joost van der Westhuizen, whose team had been devastated by their semifinal loss to Australia. The defending champions scored the only try of the game through Paulse, but neither side was able to assert its authority in a hard-fought encounter.

South Africa 22 (Henry Honniball 3 pen, con, Percy Montgomery 2 dg, Breyton Paulse try) All Blacks 18 (Andrew Mehrtens 6 pen). HT: 16-12

2003, Melbourne: All Blacks Breakthrough

In 2003, Leon MacDonald, Keven Mealamu, and Joe Rokocoko ended New Zealand’s World Cup try drought against South Africa in style, with the All Blacks defeating South Africa 29-9 in the quarterfinals. First-five Carlos Spencer orchestrated the victory, setting up tries by MacDonald and Rokocoko and igniting the All Blacks’ attack from all parts of the field. This win consigned the Springboks to their earliest World Cup exit and marked the end of New Zealand’s World Cup struggle against South Africa, as they had never beaten them or scored a try against them in the tournament previously.

All Blacks 29 (Keven Mealamu, Joe Rokocoko tries, Leon MacDonald try, 3 pen, con, Aaron Mauger dg) South Africa 9 (Derick Hougaard 3 pen). HT: 13-6

2015, London: Semifinal Nailbiter

In a match filled with the tension and drama of the 1995 thriller, the All Blacks displayed incredible composure to secure a 20-18 victory and book their spot in the 2015 final. Despite scoring the only two tries of the match through Beauden Barrett and Jerome Kaino, the precise boot of Handrè Pollard kept the Springboks in the contest until the final siren. The All Blacks’ defense held firm in the closing minutes, leveling the World Cup ledger between the sides at two wins each.

All Blacks 20 (Beauden Barrett, Jerome Kaino tries, Dan Carter 2 con, pen, dg) South Africa 18 (Pat Lambie pen, Handrè Pollard 5 pen). HT: 7-12

2019, Yokohama: Japan Curtain-Raiser

A brilliant first half, featuring tries from George Bridge and Scott Barrett within a five-minute period, laid the foundation for the All Blacks’ 23-13 victory over South Africa in the Pool B opener. Though they lost their opening game, South Africa went on to win the tournament, while the All Blacks were eliminated by England in their semifinal.

All Blacks 23 (George Bridge, Scott Barrett tries, Richie Mo’unga 2 con, 2 pen, Beauden Barrett pen) South Africa 13 (Pieter-Steph du Toit try, Handrè Pollard con, pen, dg). HT: 17-3




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