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South Africa

2010-10-25 19:27

Nickname: Springboks

Captain: John Smit

Coach: Peter de Villiers

RWC Appearances: 4 (First in 1995)

Best result: Champions 1995, 2007

There are few sporting teams in the world that evoke such fervour, sentiment and excitement as the Springbok rugby team. They haven't always had it their own way, but the Springboks have always developed an incredible reputation for being fearless, hard as nails and fit to the final whistle, making them one of the toughest opponents on the world rugby stage.

Although South Africa were instrumental in the creation of the Rugby World Cup competition, the Springboks did not compete in the first two World Cups in 1987 and 1991 because of anti-apartheid sporting boycotts of South Africa.

The team made its World Cup debut in 1995, when the newly democratic South Africa hosted the tournament. Spurred on by a packed out Ellis Park and a meeting with South Africa's first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela,the Springboks  defeated the All Blacks 15-12 in the final - an event now remembered as one of the greatest occasions in South Africa's sporting history and a watershed moment in the post-Apartheid nation-building process.

They were to regain their title as champions 12 years later, when they defeated England 15 – 6 in the 2007 final. As a result of the 2007 World Cup tournament the Springboks were promoted to first place in the IRB World Rankings, a position they held until July the following year when New Zealand regained the top spot.

Since 2007 there have been highlights and low periods in the team's performances and the year after the World Cup was a mixed one for the Springboks.

In January 2008 history was made when Peter De Villiers was appointed as the first ever non-white coach of the Springboks and his first squad included ten players of colour and managed two victories against Wales (43-17 and 37-21) and one against Italy (26-0) in Incoming Tours.

The Boks had an ultimately disappointing Tri-Nations, ending up last with only two wins, but they did manage a historic triumph in Dunedin's “House of Pain”, a city in which they had never tasted victory in over 100 years. The Springboks also did enough to beat Wales and Scotland before thrashing England on the end of year tour.

The 2009 season began as one of the more successful in the post-apartheid history of South African rugby. The Boks' season began with a closely-fought 2–1 series win over the British and Irish Lions and was followed by a convincing win in the Tri-Nations.

The De Villiers' team swept aside the All Blacks and lost only one game to the Wallabies in Brisbane. In the process, they added the Freedom Cup (against New Zealand) and the Mandela Challenge Plate (against Australia) to their trophy cabinet.

However, the Boks' busy year finally took its toll when they toured Europe in the November Test window. They lost their top spot in the IRB rankings with a loss to France, while a midweek side lost two non-Tests to Leicester Tigers and Saracens.

The first-string Boks returned to defeat Italy, but were beaten by Ireland to close out the year. Despite the losses, the Boks were named IRB International Team of the Year, beating out Six Nations Grand Slam winners Ireland.

A terrible Tri-Nations campaign followed in 2010, with the team winning only one match and looking a shadow of their former selves, and the poor form continued during the end of year tour to Britain, with a loss to Scotland sandwiched between two narrow victories over Ireland and Wales, and a more convincing win over England.

In 2011 the Boks lost their first two games from the Tri-Nations after opting to take a second-string Springbok team on tour, and were beaten again after a glut of first team players returned to the squad for the first home Test in the series, but managed to pull-off a morale boosting 18 - 5 win over the All Blacks in their last game of the tournament.

South Africa  will go to New Zealand as underdogs - perhaps the best position for the Springboks  - but will be motivated by the possibility of becoming the first team to retain the World Cup in the tournament's history.


Forwards: John Smit, Willem Alberts, Bakkies Botha, Heinrich Brussow, Schalk Burger, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Francois Louw, Victor Matfield, Tendai Mtawarira, Johann Muller, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Danie Rossouw, Pierre Spies, Gurthro Steenkamp, CJ van der Linde.

Backs: Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Butch James, Pat Lambie, Odwa Ndungane, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Morne Steyn.

Key Player

Victor Matfield
Height: 2.00m
Weight: 110kgs

The Springbok vice-captain is a legend in the sport – an inimitable lineout specialist, a superb leader, master tactician and, more importantly, a talisman to all South Africans on and off the field of play.


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