History haunts All Blacks too

With France it was 2007, South Africa in 1995. New Zealanders have long memories when it comes to hurtful Rugby World Cup losses, but the All Blacks refuse to be side-tracked by history.

As they prepare to face South Africa in Saturday’s semi-final, they would rather talk about familiarity with their fiercest rival and not a deep-seated grudge.

It is 20 years since they lost the 1995 final to South Africa in Johannesburg amid talk the team had been poisoned by a mysterious waitress called “Suzie”.

Most of the current team had not reached their teens by then and while they talk of upholding the honour of the jersey and respecting its history they claim little knowledge of painful defeats, so often raised by the media.

“I was born in ’88 so I don’t remember the game or anything,” lock Sam Whitelock said on Tuesday.

“Obviously in the history of the World Cup you can go back.

“There’s a number of massive games the All Blacks and Springboks have played throughout a number of tournaments.

“I think this is the first time we’ve played each other in a semi-final so it’ll be pretty cool to see how it goes and I’m sure it will be part of history.”

After whipping France 62-13 in Sunday’s quarter-final, the All Blacks ended a week of denial about France shattering their World Cup hopes in 2007 by admitting they had “fixed up” that defeat.

But against a team like South Africa, whom they play far more often than France, the All Blacks are measuring themselves against more recent performances than 1995.

“Two teams who have got a lot of history over the last few years, played some pretty outstanding Test matches so looking forward to a big challenge,” Kieran Read said.

“History has shown that prior form means nothing when it comes to a finals game. We’ve got to turn up and certainly take lessons from the games we’ve played against them in the past.”

Conrad Smith described the Springboks as New Zealand’s “ultimate rival.”

“There’s something special about playing them so meeting them in a semi is going to be extra special.”

The familiarity is evident as the All Blacks refer to their Springbok opposites by their Christian names, rather than the surnames they use when referring to players in other sides.

“All their loose forwards, with Schalk as well, they’re a pretty complete package,” flank Victor Vito said in reference to Schalk Burger.

“Obviously Victor’s been injured,” added Whitelock talking about his longtime rival Victor Matfield, while Smith is “gutted for Jean”, the South Africa captain Jean de Villiers who suffered a broken jaw against Samoa.

With such familiarity comes the knowledge that they will have to raise their game from the performance that swamped France.

“We were very good at upsetting French lineout ball, we’d love to do the same thing against the Springboks but history would suggest and form would suggest they will be lot better at their set piece,” Smith said.

“There’s one big factor. And we’re going to have to defend them better than what we did last Saturday.”

In the 1995 final, many of the All Blacks were said to have food poisoning. Coach Laurie Mains claimed a waitress known as “Suzie” had tampered with their water.

The match ended 9-9 and went into extra time where Joel Stransky kicked the winning drop goal.

In one of sport’s most iconic moments, Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok jersey presented the William Webb Ellis Cup to South African captain Francois Pienaar.


South Africa:

15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (captain), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein

New Zealand:


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