Shamik Das

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Chip off the old Bok

ELLIS PARK, JOHANNESBURG, SATURDAY, JUNE 24th, 1995: Nelson Mandela, bedecked in the glorious green of a Springbok jersey, hands South Africa captain Francois Pienaar the World Cup.    STADE DE FRANCE, PARIS, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20th, 2007: Thabo Mbeki, wearing a bottle green Springbok jacket, celebrates with captain John Smit.

Stade de France, St Denis, World Cup Final:
England 6-15 South Africa

THE Rainbow Nation reigned supreme last night to unite South Africa after a dozen years of yearning.

Scenes reminiscent of 1995 erupted all over the country as fans of all races embraced and toasted the sweet smell of success into the early hours.

Memories were also evoked in the stadium, with South African president Thabo Mbeki donning green and glad-handing John Smit – cue Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar on that unforgettable afternoon in '95.

"We had our president sitting in the changing room," revealed Springbok coach Jake White, another replay of twelve years ago. "He was saying how proud he was of being a South African.

"It's important for our country and I think everyone back home is rejoicing. It's unbelievable.

"To see the president of our country sitting on the players' shoulders, it doesn't get much better than that."

South Africa captain Smit praised the fans for their support. "This is for all of you. Thank you very much for all your support, even in bad times," he said, choking back the tears.

BOK POWER: John Smit holds aloft the Webb Ellis Cup as South Africa are crowned world champions in Paris.

"I'm sitting here and trying not to cry. It's a feeling you can't put into words.

"Twelve years ago, I sat watching the final at Ellis Park and wondered whether it was possible to do it again.

"Dreams come true.

"It was a colossal game, but to be able to win a World Cup, I think I'll only realise in a couple of days' time.

"We have had the responsibility of carrying the hopes of a nation on our shoulders and now we have a team that is taking the trophy back home to the nation.

"I certainly hope that being able to lift this cup and take it back home can create a scenario that everyone binds together and we start forgetting about counting numbers and colours."

"This is awesome. We worked for four years for this," added man-of-the-match Victor Matfield.

"The emotions are greater than I ever thought. I can't wait to get back home. I can't wait to see all the South Africans."

GOTCHA! The picture that proves definitively that Mark Cueto's left boot was in touch when scoring a disallowed try for England.    BOKKE, BOKKE, BOKKE, OI, OI, OI! Springbok players jump for joy while England's distraught men lie on the ground, shattered.

Four Percy Montgomery penalties and a stunning strike from halfway by 20-year-old wunderkind Francois Steyn proved sufficient as South Africa controlled the final.

Making virtually no mistakes all game and controlling the line-out – winning all their own and stealing seven off England – the Springboks never looked like losing.

England, however, were left to wonder what might have been after claiming the officials' decision to deny them Mark Cueto's 42nd minute try irretrievably yanked the cup from their grip.

An off-colour Jonny Wilkinson added to the 2003 winners' woes, as the flawless South Africans sauntered to victory.

Though they did manage to keep Bryan Habana quiet, notable more for his defence in the final than the attacking, try-scoring flair that has lit up the past seven weeks.

"Every player who's represented the country in the last four years made a contribution," said Habana.

"The 1995 victory planted the seed that made me want to be a part of this great game."

See more glorious images of South Africa's victory on the
official Springboks website and at BBC Sport.


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