Cape Town - A little over month ago we celebrated the 20th anniversary of arguably South African sport’s finest hour - when the Springboks beat the All Blacks 15-12 at Ellis Park to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.
Sadly for Springbok fans, since then rugby’s greatest rivalry has been largely one-sided and when hostilities returned to the same ground last Saturday, it was an all too familiar sight as the All Blacks eked out a 27-20 win.
Despite being dominated for large parts of the game, the Kiwis somehow found a way to win and confirm their status as the best rugby team on the planet.
The Rugby Championship defeat was the Boks’ sixth in seven matches against their arch-rivals since Heyneke Meyer took over as Bok coach in 2012.
Overall, the two rivals have faced each other 90 times since 1921, with the All Blacks boasting a healthy 52-35 win-loss record, with three Tests ending in draws.
The worrying aspect from a South African perspective though is that the Kiwis haven’t always had the upper hand.
In fact, after Francois Pienaar’s charges won the 1995 World Cup final, the Springboks held a 21-18 win-loss record, with three draws.
The game turned professional after that World Cup and in the years since, the two nations have played each other on a yearly basis.
Since 1996, the All Blacks have won 34 matches compared to a meagre 14 by South Africa.
When the All Blacks claimed their first ever series win over the Springboks in 1996 it signalled the start of a dominating period for the men in black against their old rivals.
They had long sought a series win on these shores, given the fact that the Boks had won a series over there in 1937.
The advent of professionalism and the emergence of the Tri-Nations (now called Rugby Championship) meant the three-game 1996 tour was the last of its kind between the two rivals.
For South Africa’s sake, it’s perhaps a good thing that series' between the nations were scrapped because I fear the All Blacks would have grabbed a few more in South Africa over the last 19 years.
Who will ever forget the 52-16 defeat the Boks suffered at Loftus Versfeld in 2003? It remains New Zealand’s largest ever away win over South Africa, while their biggest home win also occurred in this era - a 40-7 drubbing in Wellington four years ago.
So why exactly have things gone so pear-shaped for the Boks in this rivalry of late?
It’s a tough question to answer! You could argue that South Africa’s political situation - where players aren’t always picked on merit - has played a part in the cohesion and stability of the national team.
Perhaps the Kiwis are simply handling professionalism better, or maybe coaching methods in South Africa have fallen behind the times?
Our traditional, one-dimensional style has copped heavy criticism and it’s only recently that the Boks have started to show more willingness to play a more inventive game style.
Reasons for New Zealand’s dominance are probably not clear-cut, and perhaps it’s a combination of the above-mentioned theories.
But fact remains: the All Blacks are dominating this rivalry and they will be firm favourites should the teams meet as scheduled in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals later this year.
The Boks will take solace from last Saturday’s performance when they showed they have enough in their armoury to trouble the All Blacks.
However, the Kiwis showed their class to pounce when it really mattered and it will take some effort to stop them later this year...