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.
This week we focus on the dramatic ending to a short-lived Test career for South Africa second row Jannes Labuschange.
November 23, 2002
Forget South Africa’s current struggles, the Rudolph Straeuli era is still looked back on in South Africa, now well over a decade later, with a real degree of horror.
No result was worse during that time period than when the Springboks turned up to Twickenham and were overwhelmingly thumped by Clive Woodward’s England.
Taking on the soon-to-be Rugby World Cup winners was hard enough given their rise to the top of the sport but Labuschagne, playing his 11th Test and tenth start for his country, didn’t exactly help the situation, and after referee Paddy O’Brien showed him a red card the Springboks lost the plot.
Was red harsh? Yes in the eyes of many. Corné Krige referred to the incident in his autobiography as “a harsh punishment” despite O’Brien having warned both sides to cut out the off-the-ball incidents.
“There may have been some malicious intent in Jannes’s tackle, but it did not warrant a red card. A yellow one fine, but not red.”
South Africa’s eventual 53-3 defeat is almost as famous for Krige losing his cool, to the extent that he accidentally punched his own fly-half André Pretorius.
Describing his mood in the Twickenham dressing room afterwards. Krige said: “That imbalance… combined with England’s attitude, motivated me to be as dirty as I could for the rest of the game.
“I committed some appalling fouls… when I sat down in the dressing room after the final whistle I just cried my eyes out. I honestly believe I took two years off my rugby career in that game. My body was destroyed.”
Back to Labuschagne – the lock was suspended for 23 days as a result and never played for his country again.
However after he hung up his boots in 2006, Labuschagne surprisingly came out of retirement to play for the Lions in the 2009 Super Rugby season.
That 2002 match remains South Africa’s heaviest defeat to date, with the team under Straeuli going on to suffer an early 2003 Rugby World Cup exit in the quarter-finals to New Zealand.
Jake White was appointed the following year, marking a long-awaited improvement in fortunes for the Springboks.
Tries: Cohen, Greenwood 2, Back, Hill, Dallaglio, Penalty Try
Cons: Wilkinson, Dawson, Gomarsall, Stimpson
Pens: Wilkinson 2
For South Africa:
Red Card: Labuschagne
England: 15 Jason Robinson, 14 Ben Cohen, 13 Will Greenwood, 12 Mike Tindall, 11 Phil Christophers, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Dawson, 8 Richard Hill, 7 Neil Back, 6 Lewis Moody, 5 Ben Kay, 4 Martin Johnson, 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Jason Leonard
Replacements: 16 Mark Regan, 17 Robbie Morris, 18 Danny Grewcock, 19 Lawrence Dallaglio, 20 Andy Gomarsall, 21 Austin Healey, 22 Tim Stimpson
South Africa: 15 Werner Greeff, 14 Breyton Paulse, 13 Robbie Fleck, 12 Butch James, 11 Friedrich Lombard, 10 André Pretorius, 9 Bolla Conradie, 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Pedrie Wannenburg, 6 Corné Krige (c), 5 AJ Venter, 4 Jannes Labuschagne, 3 Deon Carstens, 2 James Dalton, 1 Wessel Roux
Replacements: 16 Lukas van Biljon, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Marco Wentzel, 19 Pierre Uys, 20 Norman Jordaan, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Brent Russell
Referee: Paddy O’Brien (New Zealand)