Book excerpt: Six of the best Rugby World Cup memories

Date published: August 18 2019

Over the coming weeks we’ll be publishing excerpts from The Rugby World Cup 2019 Book: Everything You Need to Know About the Rugby World Cup.

Written by Graeme Copas, a respected sports journalist and editor of more than 25 years, the book is an ideal gift ahead of the tournament.

Here we focus on a chapter called ‘Six of the best Rugby World Cup memories’ and continue by heading back to the 1995 World Cup.

1995: The Boks are back

It is perhaps the most iconic image in Rugby World Cup history, that moment when President Nelson Mandela presented South Africa captain Francois Pienaar with the Webb Ellis Cup after the host nation had narrowly beaten New Zealand 15-12 in the final after extra-time.

Both men were leaders, both top of their chosen fields, and both, of course, wearing a green Springboks jersey, with the No.6 embossed in gold on the back.

This emotional moment between these two inspirational men was beamed into billions of television sets and printed on the front and back pages of countless newspapers around the world.

Such was its impact globally that it even inspired a best-selling book on which the Hollywood movie Invictus, directed by Clint Eastwood, was based.

Politically it showed the world that South Africa was making steps towards becoming the Rainbow Nation and that the scourge of Apartheid was in the past.

It offered hope that this divided country was beginning to unify, and that rugby – always considered a white man’s game – could become one of its building blocks.

From a sporting perspective, the Springboks had just hosted and won the first Rugby World Cup they had been allowed to enter after the fall of Apartheid.

It was no mean feat, and one not lost on a sports-mad country which had been given little to cheer about for many years.

After being presented with the Webb Ellis Cup on that historic day at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, in front of almost 60,000 spectators, Pienaar later said he wanted to hug Mandela but didn’t because it ‘was not appropriate’.

He added: “Mandela said ‘thank you very much for what you’ve done for South Africa’, but I said ‘thank you for what you have done’.

“Then I lifted the trophy which was unbelievable. I can’t describe the feeling as it wouldn’t do it justice.”

The match itself had been memorable too, despite failing to produce a try, as a well-honed South Africa’s defence blunted New Zealand’s attacking prowess.

The match was finally won in extra-time through a Joel Stransky drop goal. It was the type of climax to a tournament which would normally be the defining moment.

But that came a few minutes later when two proud Africans met for a few seconds and, with smiles on their faces, exchanged the Webb Ellis Cup, both knowing nothing in their worlds would ever be the same again.

The Rugby World Cup 2019 Book: Everything You Need to Know About the Rugby World Cup, is out now and can be purchased here.

Written by Graeme Copas, it is published by Meyer & Meyer Sport, Europe’s leading specialist sports publisher.

Thoroughly researched, the book is a comprehensive guide to the third biggest sporting competition in the world – covering the history, the build-up, the statistics, the 20 teams, star players, and the schedule of this showcase rugby union tournament, while providing talking points, in-depth analysis and insightful interviews.