Francois Pienaar (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Remaining members of the
1995 World Cup winning Springbok squad gathered for an emotional reunion
marking the 20-year anniversary of the team that beat the All Blacks 15-12 at
The team walked through the tunnel with
victorious captain Francois Pienaar rolling iconic scrumhalf Joost van der
Westhuizen onto the field in a wheelchair with the rest of the squad in tow.
The men joined for a photograph in front of
a banner that read “Still One Team, Still One Country” as a scrum of
photographers snapped away.
Twenty years have left its marks on the
1995 World Cup heroes but the memories remain vivid in their minds.
The memories came flashing back as he
walked onto the field, said Mark Andrews, who has not watched the match since
the Boks beat the All Blacks on July 24, 1995.
“The reason why for me is that I’ve got
memories of that day and there is the old saying ‘the older I get the better I
was’,” Andrews said.
“On that day in 1995 I was bulletproof, I
was Superman in a Springbok jersey, I probably played ‘k*k’ but I’ve got good
memories of how good we were as a team.
“As time goes by the memories become
sweeter and I am not that excited to watch it as the reality will set in and I
see I was actually pretty average that day.”
The euphoria and spirit of that memorable
day on which former president Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok jersey,
presented the Webb Ellis trophy to Pienaar was tangible on Wednesday.
“I woke up this morning and I welled up, it
dawned on me that 20 years ago I went through that cocktail of emotions,”
Pienaar said as he fought back the tears.
“What happened 20 years ago is what made
this country stand up for the first time and we became a nation for the first
“We didn’t know that it would be that big,
we had a sense that it was something extraordinary but in our wildest dreams we
couldn’t have imagined what happened 20 years ago.”
Pienaar said the afternoon screening of the
match would also be the first time that he would watch the game.
“You don’t want the romance to be tainted,
it is almost selfish but the thought was that it was so special that anything
after this almost doesn’t matter,” he said.
It was a bitter-sweet reunion with the
absence of Ruben Kruger, coach Kitch Christie, and Mandela, who have died since
that momentous day.
“If it wasn’t for Madiba and his magic,
this country would not have been together,” Pienaar said.
“The team adopted the slogan and wanted to
be one team, for one country, so we are going to miss him tonight and his
Joel Stranksy, who slotted the famous drop
goal in extra-time to clinch the victory, said it was emotional meeting up with
his old team-mates.
“I think the emotions I feel is from seeing
the other guys, when you go through the kind of adventure - the training, the
fitness, the hardship - you build a great camaraderie,” Stransky said.
“There is an element of suffering and from
the suffering, the victory and the greater achievement, you build a great
It was also a tough day for the players as
they were confronted by the image of a frail Van der Westhuizen, who was
suffering motor neuron disease.
“The suffering he is going through at the
moment, his fight is more painful, we obviously miss Kitch and Ruben
tremendously but to see Joost suffering is not so nice,” Stransky said.