Flashback: South Africa’s history-making comeback

Date published: August 17 2016

In the first of a new series, we look back at this week in history and pick out a key moment from rugby’s archives.

For this edition we’re going back to 1998 – when South Africa edged closer to clinching the old Tri-Nations for the first time with the most remarkable of comebacks against New Zealand.

AUGUST 15, 1998

Going into the 1998 Tri-Nations South Africa had won just two matches, meaning a considerable lift was required in order for them to wrestle the title away from the 1997 and 1996 winners, New Zealand.

They did just that, squeezing a 14-13 win out of Australia in Perth before a famous 13-3 victory over New Zealand in Wellington a week later, their first win on Kiwi soil for 17 years.

That still left the Springboks with plenty to do at home to secure the title though, and with the All Blacks ahead 23-5 heading into the final quarter in Durban their trophy bid all of a sudden looked under threat.

Something special was required and something special certainly happened. Watch the video below to see how South Africa first closed the gap on the scoreboard through tries from Joost van der Westhuizen and Bob Skinstad, before some late drama…

A week later at Ellis Park, Nick Mallett’s team wrapped up their first title by defeating Australia.

South Africa: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Stefan Terblanche, 13 Andre Snyman, 12 Pieter Muller, 11 Pieter Rossouw, 10 Henry Honiball, 9 Joost van der Westhuizen, 8 Gary Teichmann (c), Andre Venter, Johan Erasmus, Mark Andrews, Krynauw Otto, Adrian Garvey, James Dalton, Robbie Kempson
Replacements: 16
Naka Drotske17 Ollie le Roux, 18 Franco Smith19 Andrew Aitken, 20 Bobby Skinstad, 21 Werner Swanepoel, 22 Chester Williams

New Zealand: 15 Christian Cullen, 14 Jeff Wilson, 13 Eroni Clarke, 12 Mark Mayerhofler, 11 Jonah Lomu, 10 Andrew Mehrtens, 9 Justin Marshall, 8 Isitolo Maka, Josh Kronfeld, Taine Randell (c), Robin Brooke, Royce Willis, Olo Brown, Anton Oliver, Carl Hoeft
16 Mark Hammett, 17 Craig Dowd, 18 Ian Jones, 19 Scott Robertson, 20 Mark Robinson, 21 Carlos Spencer, 22 Norm Berryman

Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Attendance: 45,000
Referee: Peter Marshall (Australia)