South Africa has (had) a proud rugby history, one that has produced many unforgettable moments. But in between those high highs have also come some moments South Africans have done their best to forget.
For better or worse, here are the Springboks top three wins and worst three losses of all-time.
Best 3 Springbok wins
24 June 1995: South Africa 15-12 New Zealand
South Africa’s most famous win came in the first major sporting event to be held in a united, post-apartheid, South Africa. The 1995 Rugby World Cup. After finishing atop Group A undefeated, the Boks disposed of Western Samoa and then France on the way to a Final matchup with the All Blacks.
The match went into halftime tied, as it would also later finish at the end of regulation. Both teams then scored penalty goals, but with seven minutes remaining Joel Stransky scored a drop goal that eventually claimed his side the title.
15 August 1998: South Africa 24-23 New Zealand
The 1998 Tri-Nations tournament began as good as possible for the Springboks. After winning their first two matches (both on the road) they welcomed to Durban an All Blacks squad still looking for their first win in the competition.
The two-time defending Tri-Nations champs proved they were still worthy adversaries and then some, holding a 23-5 lead with fifteen minutes to time. But a brilliant try from Joost van der Westhuizen reignited the will of the Springboks. Shortly after, Bob Skinstad scored one of his own, with the now famous “Skinstad dive”. Suddenly South Africa was in striking distance and near the death, James Dalton delivered the knockout blow to give SA their first Tri-Nations title.
20 October 2007: England 6-15 South Africa
After dispatching England 36-0 in their group match, South Africa ran into defending champions England again in the 2007 World Cup Final. The Springboks kept up the momentum from their first meeting and lead 9-3 in Paris at halftime.
Shortly after play resumed, Percy Montgomery and Francois Steyn added to the Springboks tally. England had strong possession over the last 10 minutes but were unable to make a breakthrough against stout South Africa. Eventually time ran out for the English and once more South Africa were world champions.
3 Worst Springbok Defeats Of All Time
23 November 2002: England 53-3 South Africa
South Africa’s worst loss in the history of the side came during the infamous (and short-lived) Rudolf Straeuli era. The 2002 end-of-year tests didn’t go so well for the 1995 World Cup champion’s side, who lost to both France and Scotland.
But the Springboks third and final match, against England at Twickenham, was another kind of loss completely. Once Jannes Labuschagne was sent off in the 22nd after a late hit on Jonny Wilkinson, the whole thing unraveled for the visitors. A deluge of English scoring and some other ugly incidents followed, with captain Corne Krige knocking out his own player with a fist punch in a ruck.
The whole thing imploded for the visitors giving South Africa a 53-3 defeat which remains their largest loss against England. Leaving serious doubts about the future of SA Rugby at the time, with a World Cup round the corner.
15 July 2006: Australia 49-0 South Africa
Straeuli’s predecessor, Jake White, wasn’t to be outdone less than four years later as his squad posted their own kind of record defeat. In the 2006 Tri-Nations Series, the Boks headed into the competition without several key players reportedly under-conditioned.
All of those worries were validated when they faced Australia in Brisbane. The Wallabies took the lead early and never looked back, scoring six tries in what was a record losing margin in the competition.
19 September 2015: South Africa 32-34 Japan
In their opening match of group play at the 2015 World Cup, South Africa faced Japan, a side that had previously won just one match despite appearing in every tournament. Rightfully so then, the Boks were huge 1/33 favourites at the major SA online sportsbooks where you can bet on every Springboks rugby match.
The reality of what we were watching came in the second half when Japan leveled the score for the third time in the match. In extra time, the Boks finally succumbed to the underdogs’ pressure, allowing Karne Hesketh to drive across the try line in what many call the biggest upset in rugby history.
With Allister Coetzee at the helm and the Springboks showing no signs of improvement, expect the list of worst ever SA rugby losses to get longer and longer. Now go onto Youtube and watch some old Springbok matches for a taste of nostalgia when the Springboks were still the Springboks.
Do you agree with our list of best and worst Springbok losses of all time? Think the Springboks will get better with the Rugby Championship around the corner? As always drop us a comment and we will be happy to partake in any constructive criticism.