In the latest edition of our series, we look back at this week in history and pick out a key moment from rugby’s archives.
After England’s first win over South Africa in over ten years three weeks ago, we look back to when England claimed a 13-7 win over the Springboks to keep them from breaking the world record for consecutive wins by a tier one nation.
December 5, 1998
The Springboks equalled the world record after 17 Tests unbeaten in 1998 and took a mere 16 months to match the record.
It was an extraordinary season for the South Africans after beating Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. South Africa was coached by the esteemed rugby brain of Nick Mallett and captained by classy number eight Gary Teichmann.
England were the final fixture on the South Africans’ tour and they played three Tests, against Scotland, Wales and Ireland, before the Twickenham match up, all of which the Springboks won quite comfortably including a resounding 35-10 win over Scotland.
It would be the home of rugby where the giants would be toppled by a plucky England side, typified by a valiant attacking effort from inside centre Jerry Guscott who scored their try.
SARU said after the game – “So we didn’t beat the New Zealand record for consecutive wins. We equalled it. It’s still an awesome achievement. We’re still the undisputed world champions.”
South Africa were keen to play a physical game with their forwards trying to outmuscle their opponents which could have been their downfall on the day as they showed that they were probably superior in the backline with England full-back Nick Beal having a shocker of a game at the back. He fumbled several balls and couldn’t seem to get a hold of South African winger Pieter Rossouw whenever the Bok had ball in hand, leading to South Africa’s solitary try.
South Africa’s own full-back, Percy Montgomery, barely got a sniff of possession, a pity for the visitors as the Namibian born-utility-back was incredible with ball in hand in his day.
After Rossouw scored his side’s try it was all England as they managed to box South Africa into their own half, allowing the home side to keep the score board ticking over through the boot of scrum-half Matt Dawson.
England finally secured the win after the home side chased an up and under, which winger Dan Luger was able to beat Stefan Terblanche to and knocked the ball back to Guscott who scored.
After the game England coach Clive Woodward said: “Our forwards were fantastic.”
But also warned; “There is a gulf, between us and the southern hemisphere that has more to do with the structure of the game than the players. I have no doubt that we have players who are just as good man-for-man but we are still not on a level playing field.”
Pens: Dawson 2
For South Africa:
England: 15 Nick Beal, 14 Tony Underwood, 13 Phil de Glanville, 12 Jerry Guscott, 11 Dan Luger, 10 Mike Catt, 9 Matt Dawson, 8 Richard Hill, 7 Neil Back, 6 Lawrence Dallaglio (c), 5 Tim Rodber, 4 Martin Johnson, 3 Darren Garforth, 2 Richard Cockerill, 1 Jason Leonard
Replacements: 16 David Rees, 17 Alex King, 18 Austin Healey, 19 Martin Corry, 20 Danny Grewcock, 21 Graham Rowntree, 22 Phil Greening
South Africa: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Stefan Terblanche, 13 Andre Snyman, 12 Christian Stewart, 11 Pieter Rossouw, 10 Henry Honiball, 9 Joost van der Westhuizen, 8 Gary Teichmann (c), 7 Bobby Skinstad, 6 Johan Erasmus, 5 Mark Andrews, 4 Krynauw Otto, 3 Adrian Garvey, 2 James Dalton, 1 Robbie Kempson
Replacements: 16 Werner Swanepoel, 17 Andre Venter, 18 Ollie le Roux, 19 Gaffie du Toit, 20 Franco Smith, 21 Corne Krige, 22 Naka Drotske
Referee: Paddy O’Brien