When rain nearly ended the Springboks Rugby World Cup dream_1

The torrential rains and winds of Typhoon Hagibis have put the Rugby World Cup ambitions of Scotland and Ireland in jeopardy; in 1995 a torrential downpour in Durban threatened to derail the Springboks campaign.

The memories of the 1995 Rugby World Cup often centre around the 15-12 extra-time victory over the All Blacks at Ellis Park. The powerful imagery of that day obliterates what went before, like the grinding win over Romania and some of the finer details of the tournament.

Hindsight and nostalgia have become intertwined in our view of that 1995 tournament. There is a perception that Springboks were destined to win the Webb Ellis trophy, but they came within minutes of being knocked out at the semi-final stage.

The heavens open

The city of Durban has a reputation for its glorious weather but 17 June 1995 proved an exception. 

The heavens above Kings Park opened, and a prolonged downpour before kick-off left the pitch waterlogged. Kick-off was delayed as groundstaff, cleaners and the ballboys worked to push water off the playing surface.

Referee Derek Bevan would prove to be a pivotal figure. Bevan was concerned ahead of kick-off about the dangers posed if a scrum collapsed in one of the large pools of water on the pitch.

Springboks in peril

If the match were called off the Springboks would be eliminated due to their disciplinary record that was tainted by the battle of Boet Erasmus.

The game eventually got underway but the rain would return and the contest was dominated by kicking and handling errors. France and the Springboks tried to keep the game as tight as possible but that proved virtually impossible.

France peppered the Bok back three with up-and-unders that created some hairy moments, including one instance when Andre Joubert and James Small went up for the same ball. Small won the ball but wound up at the bottom of a ruck, which then somehow became a maul and ended with the Tricolour earning a scrum.

The Springboks scrum remained dominant even in the wet and they showed remarkable control to drive the French back from five metres out allowing Ruben Kruger to dive onto the ball to score. The Boks established a 10-0 lead. France found a way back through the kicking game of Thierry Lacroix. Lacroix kicked five penalty goals on the day and Joel Stransky four as well as converting Kruger’s try.

The wettest match ever

There was a moment late on when France thought they had scored. Joubert spilled a high ball and Abdel Benazzi came barreling in gathering the ball and diving for the line. Small provided a vital intervention, showing no regard for his own safety as he used his body to block the Frenchman from going over. Benazzi maintains he got over but video evidence has shown that he was indeed just centimetres short.

Lacroix would be afforded something of a personal redemption returning to the venue to win the Currie Cup with the Sharks later that same year in another wet game.

The Springboks won 19-15 and went on to lift the Rugby World Cup at their first attempt.

Watch highlights of the 1995 RWC semi-final Springboks vs France