27.6.2020 11:17 am
Former Springbok flyhalf Joel Stransky recalls the drop goal that won the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
Drop-goal hero Joel Stransky had the opportunity to walk down memory lane this week, rewinding the clock 25 years to the memorable day the Springboks beat New Zealand to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Stransky, who earned 22 Bok caps, was among nine of the squad's players who met at Ellis Park on Wednesday, on the anniversary of their title, with the Golden Lions sharing some pictures on social media. "We then zoomed in with the other guys from around the country. We had a little toast at 3 o'clock and paid tribute to the guys who are no longer with us," he said. "We enjoyed a bit of a laugh and enjoyed a rather good afternoon together. "We went down to the field and had a couple of photos and some around that same drop-goal area (where Stransky kicked the winning points) but more importantly we had a good time together." Coach Kitch Christie (1998, cancer), flank Ruben Kruger (cancer, 2010), scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen (2017, motor neuron disease) and wings James Small and Chester Williams (last year, both heart attacks) were remembered. "We paid tribute to our fallen brothers and just remembered a great occasion," said 52-year-old Stransky. "I've been asked about that drop goal a million times and have gone through that moment a million times over the last few days as well. It was a special moment for me." Stransky, the team's flyhalf, recalled the dying stages of the final. While the nation looked on, the squad's senior players saw an opportunity and took the points, giving the Boks a late 15-12 win. "I remember towards the end of extra time we had a backrow move called by Francois (Pienaar, captain), and Joost and I realised then that the Kiwis had studied us and were all lined up to defend that," Stransky said. "We then decided because the All Blacks had read us, it would create a gap and an opportunity, so we changed the call and took the kick. Fortunately it went over for us and the country." Despite the heroics they produced, securing SA's first World Cup title, things changed early for the squad in 1996, with Christie falling ill and being replaced by new coach Andre Markgraaff. "That broke us up and he (Markgraaff) wasn't interested in keeping us together. He probably had his own agenda and it was probably not the greatest time in South African rugby under his leadership and tenure," Stransky said. "So yes, it was a shame and I think we could have been even greater. We were a great side, and had we stayed together longer we would have been an even better side." Stransky played for Leicester Tigers between 1997 and 1999, and due to his English ancestry there were talks that he could've played for England. "I played in Italy as a youngster and then later went to the UK, and I was there for four years, but it was never really going to be possible," he said. "I also don't think I had the right to play for England, and to top it all I smashed my knee." Stransky admitted it was a regret that he never faced the British Lions in 1997. "I was getting myself back in a position to face them but that's when I hurt my knee. It was my first knee injury in the UK and it took me out for about two to three months just at the time of the Lions tour," he said. "There was never a chance to face them and I came out in crutches and plaster to watch the second Test in Durban from the stands. "It is a great honour to play against the British Lions and sadly an opportunity I missed out on." It was unfair, Stransky believed, to compare South Africa's three World Cup victories in 1995, 2007 and 2019. "Whenever you win the World Cup you have achieved something special and '95 was very special because of what happened on the field, but also off it," he said. "Madiba was so involved and made it such an incredible occasion, using sport to unify a country, and that's why it's a bit more comparable to Siya Kolisi last year, (who also lifted the country's morale) as a captain and a leader. "Siya has been simply inspirational... but any team which wins a World Cup is a special team and has achieved something memorable. All three teams have done that." Looking ahead, Stransky did not think SA had fallen behind New Zealand this year because of the global pandemic, with the Kiwi Super Rugby sides already back on the pitch while local teams remained sidelined. "I think we will have a local competition, just like what they are having, before we can do international travel. That will give us enough time to get back in the swing of things," he said. "I don't think you lose ground but you simple have a longer off-season and have a period of two to three weeks to get back into the nitty gritty of competitive rugby."
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