When Piennar made World Cup history

Francois Piennar


Last week, on 24 June, it was the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final when Francois Piennar inspired a nation by leading South Africa to their first World Cup triumph on home soil, earning great praise for his leadership from South African president Nelson Mandela.

The 1995 Rugby World Cup was the first major tournament held in South Africa following apartheid and the first in which the Springboks had participated, having only been readmitted to international rugby by the International Rugby Football Board (now World Rugby) in 1992.

In the final at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa beat New Zealand 15-12, with outside-half Joel Stransky scoring a drop-goal in extra-time to win the match.

The image of Pienaar, who turned 53 in January this year, accepting the Webb Ellis Cup from Mandela is one of the enduring sporting moments of all time, an everlasting symbol of South Africa’s rehabilitation into the sporting landscape. It was a monumental moment and one that made Pienaar an all-time great.

The Springboks task had begun with a daunting opening fixture at Newlands against reigning champions Australia, who were undefeated for a full year before the tournament’s curtain raiser. But Pienaar’s side were in no mood to stand on ceremony as tries from Stransky and Pieter Hendriks sunk the Wallabies 27-18.

From then on Pienaar’s side overcame obstacle after obstacle, whether it be a mass-brawl against Canada or the semi-final against France, in which conditions were almost unplayable following huge storms over the ABSA Stadium.

In the final Pienaar’s men faced up to the fearsome All Blacks and their try-machine Jonah Lomu but three penalties and two drop-goals from Stransky were enough to see the Springboks to glory, but it was the magnificent marshalling of Lomu by the South Africa back-row led by flanker Piennar that really drove home their victory.

Last year in Japan the Springboks, captained by Siya Kolisi, repeated their glorious 1995 triumph, winning the Webb Ellis Cup for the third time by beating England 32-12 in the final, with Pienaar proudly cheering them on in Yokohama… READ MORE