It all comes down to this Saturday. We are fast approaching the biggest match of the international rugby calendar, with New Zealand and South Africa set to battle it out in the 2023 Rugby World Cup Final.
These two sides have a storied rivalry on the grandest stage, with this weekend set to etch the newest chapter into the history books. Since the Rugby World Cup’s first iteration in 1987, the Springboks and All Blacks have collided five times at the competition. Each match has been an unforgettable contest, between these two titans of international rugby.
The stakes have never been higher for the two sides, with plenty of records on the line heading into this Saturday’s Rugby World Cup Final. The winner of the showpiece event will become the first side ever to win a record fourth Rugby World Cup title, with the All Blacks and Springboks both currently boasting a trio of tournament victories.
South Africa are also looking to become the first side to emulate New Zealand’s back-to-back Rugby World Cup retentions, when Richie McCaw led his men to glory in 2011 and 2015. There is plenty on the line for New Zealand second row Sam Whitelock as well, as the most capped All Black is looking to become the first player in history, to win and unbelievable three Rugby World Cups.
So, as this match with unparalleled grandeur and sporting significance draws ever closer, let’s take a look back through the annuals of history. Here is a full re-count of the five previous Rugby World Cup meetings between New Zealand and South Africa, ahead of this weekend’s seismic Rugby World Cup Final.
1. South Africa 15 – 12 New Zealand: 1995 Rugby World Cup Final
June 24th 1995, Ellis Park, Johannesburg
‘The Original and Best’, the stakes could not have been higher for the first Rugby World Cup run-in between the All Blacks and the Springboks. Considered to be amongst the greatest of the competition’s finals, this storied fixture played out like a Hollywood blockbuster. The match has since found its way to the silver screen as the film ‘Invictus’, and is a rugby match that has certainly transcended the sport.
The pay-off to an epic tournament, the 1995 Rugby World Cup is best remembered for the iconic image of Nelson Mandela, handing Springboks captain Francois Pienaar the Web Ellis trophy. This symbol of solidarity meant so much to the nation of South Africa, as the country worked towards a future away from the hostile grip of Apartheid.
The on-field story was a classic one. New Zealand had unleashed the rampaging Jonah Lomu onto the rugby world, with no-one able to find a way to halt the rampaging winger. Lomu had bulldozed his way through the opposition, with an unforgettable semi-final seeing him run riot over England with four tries, leaving the likes of Mike Catt flattened in his path. However, South Africa seemingly found the answer, and nullified the powerhouse with relentless defence, in their home soil triumph.
It is not often that a try-less match goes down in the history of iconic rugby fixtures, yet this one achieved just that. A 9-9 draw at 80 minutes saw all of the points come from the boots of Springboks’ Joel Stransky, and the All Blacks’ Andrew Mehrtens. This classic went to extra time, with New Zealand edging in front via another Mehrtens penalty.
South Africa fired back, as Stransky drew his side level once again, for a 12-12 stalemate after an exhausting hour and a half of play. The decisive moment came two minutes later, with Stransky slotting the title-winning drop goal to claim South Africa their first Rugby World Cup. Ellis Park shook to its core, with the rafters just about holding for the frenzied capacity crowd.