1995 Rugby World Cup Final
|Event||1995 Rugby World Cup|
|After extra time|
|Date||24 June 1995|
|Venue||Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa|
|Referee||Ed Morrison (England)|
The 1995 Rugby World Cup Final was the final match of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, played in South Africa. The match was played at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg on 24 June 1995 between the host nation, South Africa, and New Zealand.
South Africa won the encounter by three points in their first Rugby World Cup Final, which was also the first to require extra time. Unusually, the points were scored by only one player from each team, with Andrew Mehrtens of New Zealand scoring all 12 of the All Blacks' points (three penalties and one drop goal) and Joel Stransky tallying all 15 points (three penalties and two drop goals) for the Springboks, including his famous dramatic drop goal in extra time, which sealed the victory and their first Rugby World Cup title. They would go on to collect a second, in 2007, with a team that featured only one player from the 1995 squad, loosehead prop Os du Randt.
At the end of the match, South African President Nelson Mandela, famously wearing a No. 6 Springbok rugby shirt and cap, presented the Webb Ellis Cup to South African captain François Pienaar. Mandela and Pienaar's involvement in the 1995 World Cup became the subject of Clint Eastwood's Oscar-nominated 2009 film Invictus, featuring Morgan Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as Pienaar (and including Chester Williams, a member of the 1995 champions, as a technical consultant), with the final as the climactic scene and filmed on location at Ellis Park.
Path to the final
The final was contested by the hosts, South Africa, and New Zealand. Both teams finished at the top of their pools, both undefeated in the pool stages. South Africa defeated Western Samoa in the quarter finals, and then France in the semi-finals to reach the final; the All Blacks defeated Scotland in the quarter-finals, and England in the semi-finals, a game in which Jonah Lomu famously scored four tries. The final was played at Ellis Park in Johannesburg and refereed by Ed Morrison of England.
No tries were scored during the match but this did not diminish the tense atmosphere and climactic finish. The South Africans played a largely defensive game. Due to the strength from flankers Ruben Kruger and Mark Andrews plus scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen, the expansive attacks from New Zealand were repeatedly closed down. Andrew Mehrtens opened the scoring with a penalty after six minutes to give New Zealand a 3–0 lead. A Joel Stransky penalty put South Africa on the scoreboard after 11 minutes. Mehrtens and Stransky swapped successful penalty kicks. Following a period of pressure, Stransky landed a 32nd minute drop goal to give South Africa a 9–6 lead at half time.
The All Blacks levelled the scores at 9–9 with a Mehrtens drop goal after 55 minutes. Though All Blacks fly-half Andrew Mehrtens almost kicked a late drop goal, the score remained unchanged at full time, forcing the game into extra time for the first time in a Rugby World Cup final.
Mehrtens made amends for his miss by striking a long-range penalty in the first period. As the minutes slowly passed, Stransky levelled for the South Africans. Seven minutes from time it was Stransky who scored the final points of the match. From thirty metres out he struck the drop goal, securing South Africa’s victory and the Rugby World Championship crown.
Inspiration and controversies after the match
What happened after the match would go on to become an iconic moment in the history of sport. Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok rugby shirt and cricket cap, presented the William Webb Ellis Cup to South African captain François Pienaar to the delight of the capacity crowd. The moment is thought by some to be one of the most famous finals of any sporting event in recent years. Mandela's presentation was listed at number 70 in a list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments on a British television programme.
However, the after match mood soured considerably during the end of tournament banquet when South Africa's rugby president, Louis Luyt said in his speech that "There were no true world champions in the 1987 and 1991 World Cups because South Africa were not there." This claim that South Africa were the first "true world champions" led the New Zealand team to walk out of the dinner.
Subsequently, various allegations were made surrounding the lead up to the final. Many of the New Zealand players were suffering from food poisoning 48 hours prior to the game, which affected their performance in the final. New Zealand coach Laurie Mains alleged a mysterious waitress known as "Suzie" had deliberately poisoned the All Blacks' water in the week before the final. During the match New Zealand players could be seen throwing up on the sidelines.
Later interviews with some of All Blacks seemed to indicate that intentional food poisoning was unlikely, as team member Eric Rush said that they went "to the Pizza Hut down the road" spontaneously. However the poisoning was not alleged to be from Pizza Hut, and in fact it was the players such as Rush who left the hotel and went to Pizza Hut instead who avoided illness. An intentional act would have required considerable confidential intelligence and luck that seems very unlikely. There has never been any conclusive evidence of any collusion to intentionally give the All Blacks food poisoning, although they were clearly ill. Rush and others maintain that if the test had been scheduled a day earlier, it is questionable whether New Zealand would have been able to field a full team at all. The food poisoning symptoms were gone the day after the Final, and that has added to conspiracy theories and accusations, although that also coincides with the normal course of a case of non-lethal food poisoning.
While there were other suspicious incidents that occurred surrounding the All Blacks team in the lead up to the Final, such as listening devices that were discovered in rooms and car alarms that were set off in a synchronized fashion around the All Black's hotel early in the morning of the test in an apparent attempt to disrupt the All Blacks sleep, most investigations have concluded with varying degrees of certainty that at least with regard to the food poisoning that, while a very real situation, that situation was also almost certainly not caused by any intentional act on the part of South African partisans. If it was, the individuals responsible have covered their tracks very well in the years since, as no one is known to have admitted involvement publicly nor has any solid evidence of conspiracy, nor has the identity of 'Suzie' ever come to light. The All Blacks own media liaison officer later admitted there was no evidence that the players had been deliberately poisoned.
The All Blacks manager during the 1995 World Cup, Colin Meads, has blamed what he called "dodgy milk", which he and some others of the All Blacks drank after a Wednesday night gathering prior to preparing for the match. Meads also blames himself for keeping the situation secret, saying that "It was my call...we had a big night out on the Wednesday night. I was feeling not too fit the next day. And often when you are feeling like that you have a couple of glasses of milk that puts you right. We had a meeting on the Friday morning in my room and I said, 'We don't tell anyone. Tell the players not to tell anyone back home'. We didn't want anyone to know we were crook. We didn't want South Africa knowing that we were crook. And that is one that I regret. We should have let people know." Meads partly kept the food poisoning situation secret to not give the Springboks an advantage before the game, but apparently continued to do so for a long while afterward to not appear to be a bad sport in losing by making excuses. Meads went on to say that "I reckon that is what did us, it was in the milk. That is my theory. But no one else believes me." When asked for his thoughts on intentional poisoning and the Suzie theory, Meads rather abruptly and completely discounted it, saying "Well, you just don't know. Suzie is just a fictitious person as far as I was concerned. I don't think anyone was called Suzie."
All Blacks coach Laurie Mains conversely argues that the food poisoning was part of an orchestrated campaign of dirty tricks by the Springboks and their supporters. Mains argued that ""It was just an amazing sequence of events and coincidence that, of our 35-man party that ate at that particular lunch venue in the hotel here, about 27 of them went down in the space of 12 hours. You can read what you like into that, but I don't think it was coincidence. We certainly have our suspicions.... The chief operations executive of the investment group that owned the hotel, Helder Pereira, put the story into slightly different perspective, saying when asked that "We warned against New Zealand players eating outside the hotel and made it known to them that we could not be held accountable. I was very surprised to see the All Blacks and their management going out to eat on what was effectively the eve of the World Cup Final."
Whatever the true facts of how it happened, the All Blacks were obviously suffering grievously from food poisoning. They did not request a delay in the Final for fear of giving the Springboks knowledge of the situation, and felt that they could still field an effective team, which they ultimately did, only losing by one drop kick near the end of extra time.
However, in 2000, some new light was shed on this controversy. In his autobiography, Rory Steyn, the former head of security for South African president Nelson Mandela, who was assigned to the All Blacks, backed up claims suggesting their food was poisoned. In the book One Step Behind Mandela, he wrote that just days before the final the illness hit.
Steyn says in the book:
We raced back to the hotel and when I got up to the doctor's room it looked like a battle zone – like a scene from a war movie. Players were lying all over the place and the doctor and physio were walking around injecting them. I was a police officer, I worked with facts. What my eyes told me that night was that the team had deliberately been poisoned.
He said the illness which had swept through the team had a major impact on the All Blacks' preparation for the final. I had to endure accusations of complicity in this, from New Zealand officials, and I was very angry that this was allowed to happen in my country – to people in my care. South African rugby fans remained skeptical of this theory and preferred to put it down to sour Kiwi grapes. To my fellow South Africans I want to say this: Stop all those cheap jokes about Suzie, the food poisoning and whingeing Kiwis. It happened. There is no doubt that the All Blacks were poisoned two days before the final.
Of the 35 people in the All Blacks squad, only the 27 players who dined at the same venue, the team Hotel, on the Thursday night before the final, became ill. The remaining eight all dined elsewhere and were unaffected. Steve Boggan, writing in The Independent (London), also explored the possibility of the team having been deliberately poisoned. Boggan states that the private investigator that Mains hired "established that a South African waitress known only as "Susie" had been paid to slip Indian trick into the team's tea and coffee on the eve of the final. He did not say, however, how he could be sure or who had paid the waitress." However, Boggan also went on to admit that the events were still highly in question, stating that "Some believe the fact that no official inquiry has ever been conducted by the New Zealand rugby authorities speaks volumes about how they view the claims. The new allegations were certainly not being taken seriously by the South Africans.
24 June 1995
|South Africa||15–12||New Zealand|
|Pen: Stransky (3)
Drop: Stransky (2)
|Report||Pen: Mehrtens (3)
Drop: Mehrtens (1)
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- Boggan, Steve (20 November 1996). "Rugby players' food may have been spiked". The Independent. London: Independent Print.