2. New Zealand 18 – 22 South Africa: 1999 Rugby World Cup Third Place Play-Off
November 4th 1999, Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Four years removed from the unforgettable scenes of Johannesburg, New Zealand and South Africa once again collided on the final weekend of the Rugby World Cup. However, the All Blacks and Springboks met in the match that no-side wanted to be in, as they clashed in the 1999 Third Place Play-Off.
South Africa fell to the semi-final sharpshooting of Australia’s Matthew Burke, as the Wallabies edged past the Springboks on route to win their first Rugby World Cup title. New Zealand’s final four defeat came at the hands of France, despite the best efforts of Jonah Lomu’s two tries. Les Bleus were resilient, and found retribution for their 1987 Rugby World Cup Final loss to the All Blacks.
So, the stage was set for the Springbok-All Blacks reunion, yet it was not quite in the match that their armies of fans had hoped for. Despite that, the Bronze Medals were on the line, and both sides emptied their tanks which were already deep into the reserves. Four years on from kick-starting the contest in Johannesburg, Andrew Mehrtens got the first points on the board, with a well-struck eleventh minute penalty.
The All Blacks lead lasted less than 60 seconds, as Percy Montgomery slotted a drop goal, to bring the Springboks back onto level terms. Henry Honiball then took over Springbok kicking duties with a penalty of his own, to take South Africa in front. Mehrtens retaliated with his second effort at the posts, before the opening try of the contest was scored by South Africa.
Jonah Lomu got his hands on the ball for the first time, which caused an eruption from the crowd. However, it was the talents of Lomu’s opposite man that shone in the opening Springboks score, with the ball stolen from the titanic winger. Breyton Paulse sent a neat chip kick over the All Blacks defence, and hacked the ball through towards the try-line. He dived on the ball amongst a pile of black jerseys, and got his hands on it first with Christian Cullen in pursuit.
This stood as the only try of the 1999 Bronze Medal Match, with Honiball nailing the conversion before he traded penalties with Mehrtens for much of the nail-biting second half. The metronomic place kicking was interrupted by the final effort at the posts, which saw Montgomery pop up on the 75th minute, to slot his second drop goal through the up-rights. South Africa saw out the match for the remaining few minutes, and left the Welsh capital with bronze draped around their necks.
New Zealand 29 – 9 South Africa: 2003 Rugby World Cup Quarter-Final
November 8th 2003, Docklands Stadium, Melbourne
Once again, we fast-forward four years in time, when New Zealand and South Africa met to complete their trilogy of Rugby World Cup matches. The Southern Hemisphere giants locked horns in the 2003 Quarter-Finals, with the All Blacks getting their first victory against the Springboks at the tournament. Springboks fans can blame England for bringing this fixture about, as the soon-to-be World Champions finished at the top of Pool C, with South Africa second as the runners-up.
This put South Africa in the unfavourable position of taking on the winners of Pool D, which so happened to include their old foes of New Zealand. Low and behold, the All Blacks made light work of Wales, Italy, Canada and Tonga, and topped the group for a third consecutive Rugby World Cup meeting with the ‘Boks. This 20-point margin of victory stands as the most one-sided win between the two sides at the Rugby World Cup, as their four other meetings have all finished within a maximum of two scores.
The star man for the All Blacks on this day was Fly Half Carlos Spencer, who produced an inspired performance against the ill-disciplined Springboks. South Africa gave away repeated penalty offences and unforced errors, that Spencer was more than happy to capitalise upon. Spencer created two out of the three All Blacks tries, starting with a brilliant first half break to assist Leon MacDonald’s opener.
A brief hiatus from the Carlos Spencer show saw the All Blacks score through hooker Kevin Mealamu. Spencer followed this up with the moment of the match, as he performed an audacious through-the-legs pass to find Joe Rokocoko, who was able to dot the ball down over the Springboks line. The All Blacks maintained their dominance by building an unobtainable points tally. MacDonald added eleven points off the tee, with Aaron Mauger later slotting a drop goal to boot.
This win came amongst an era of All Blacks superiority over the Springboks, for their record setting seventh consecutive win. New Zealand dominated every aspect of the game in Melbourne, with All Blacks fans more eager for a repeat of such a one-sided win this weekend. South Africa returned the favour ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, as they handed New Zealand their record defeat (35-7), in front of a sold-out Twickenham crowd to finalise their tournament preparations.