When Boks were on top of the world

2017-10-15 06:05
WINNERS: President Thabo Mbeki celebrates with the team during the IRB 2007 Rugby World Cup final match between South Africa and England. (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Friday, October 20, marks 10 years since the Springboks won the 2007 World Cup by beating defending champions England 15-6.

Simnikiwe Xabanisa found 10 influential players, who were at the tournament, to relive the memories.

Jake White (Coach)

Tournament highlight: Winning it as coach having pulled off the masterstroke of involving former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones as a consultant.

Favourite memories: “The memories I have are seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up in green and gold in week one of the tournament and witnessing the emotions displayed by those involved in the campaign for the four years after the final whistle in the final".

John Smit (Captain)

Individual highlight: Talking the Boks off the ledge in that fraught quarterfinal against Fiji, with Australia and New Zealand having already been eliminated.

Favourite memories: “People ask you what it’s like to lift the trophy...for me it was more like a relief, like ‘thank goodness!’ I also think of that [Danie Rossouw] tackle in the corner but there’s no one moment. But the feeling of how important what we’d done was when we got back to OR Tambo airport ...

"Never in our wildest dreams did we expect that welcome and what happened all over the country over the next three days.

"Everything we’d done had been done in a bubble and we’d given no thought to the positive repercussions of what we’d done".

Percy Montgomery (Full back)

Individual highlight: Montgomery, who would finish the tournament as the top points scorer, scored 12 of the Boks’ 15 points in the final.

He practically finished the final on one leg after injuring his knee after colliding with a camera, having been pushed into it by England’s Toby Flood.

Favourite memories: “Our arrival at OR Tambo, when the fire trucks gave our plane a guard of honour with their hosepipes, was incredible.

"Seeing all those supporters and all the kids in the townships over the next three days was an eye-opener".

Victor Matfield (Vice-captain, lock)

Individual highlight: Putting in a Man of the Match performance in the final, which included reeling in England centre Matthew Tait from behind.

Favourite memories: “It’s very difficult to name just one memory because it was really a four-year build-up to the World Cup final.

"I remember in November 2005, when we got a big hiding against the French at the same stadium we ended up playing the final. In the changing room Jake told us in two years we’d be sitting in the same circle with the World Cup trophy in the middle.

"That just stuck with me and when we got into that changing room before the final we reminded each other that when we came back we had to have the trophy with us".

Bryan Habana (Wing)

Individual highlight: Scoring eight tries, four of them against Samoa, in the tournament and equalling Jonah Lomu’s 1995 record.

He went on to be voted the International Rugby Board’s (IRB’s) Player of the Year.

Favourite memory: “When we were 20 points all against [a rampant] Fiji [in the quarterfinal in Marseille] John brought us together behind our poles and told us in no uncertain terms that our destiny was still fully in our own hands and we couldn’t allow four years of sacrifice, hard work and dedication to just be taken away from us!”

Fourie du Preez (Scrum half)

Individual highlight: Putting in a performance for the ages at scrum half in the Boks’ 36-0 demolition of England in the group stages.

Favourite memories: “Obviously the moment when I kicked into touch to end the final. It was a release of four years of pressure.

"Also the 36-0 win over [defending champions] England was a great moment for me and the team and the time when we believed we could win the tournament".

Butch James (Fly half)

Individual highlight: Putting in a master class in tactical play to steer the Boks to safety in the last 20 minutes of that nervy quarterfinal against Fiji.

Favourite memories: “My memories had nothing to do with anything on the field. When we got back to the hotel and seeing our supporters, our families and everyone so happy and trying to get into our team room to see the trophy".

Danie Rossouw (Eighth man)

Individual highlight: Making the try-saving tackle on England wing Mark Cueto to stop England building momentum in the final.

Favourite memories: “Having hurt my neck against Tonga, my favourite moment of the tournament was being told by the team doctor that I could still play for the rest of the tournament.

"The rest was just walking onto the field and realising that it was happening. All the talk and stressing was done, it was time to play".

Ashwin Willemse (Wing)

Individual highlight: With his best years cruelly taken away from him by injuries, Willemse was reduced to a bit-part player in terms of game time, but he shocked himself, the country and then president Thabo Mbeki by hoisting him on his shoulders during the celebrations.

His memories: “He [Mbeki] represented the country and was the figurehead of the country. I did it on the spur of the moment and suddenly he was on my shoulders.

"In a way that was symbolic of what the Boks had done for the country in the tournament. The most amazing part was landing at OR Tambo and seeing all those people, I’d never seen it before and it will remain with me forever".

Wikus van Heerden (Openside flank)

Individual highlight: After coming on as a replacement, Van Heerden was the man who made the last turnover in the game by forcing the penalty from which the Boks could kick out and end the game.

Favourite memories: “For me there were two. That penalty in the final was one and the ultimate for me. And starting the group game against England after Schalk [Burger] was suspended. I was only supposed to play against Tonga and the USA and I ended up playing more games".

Read more on:    springboks  |  jake white  |  john smit  |  johannesburg  |  rugby


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