Historic Moments of Rugby World Cup
Every four years, patient rugby fans around the world allow themselves to dream once again that their nation will claim Rugby World Cup glory. In the competition’s relatively short but rich history there have been upsets, fantastic tries, dramatic late clinchers and stunning team performances. But that’s not all rugby has to offer.
As we approach the next edition in Japan, we stop to reminisce about some of the special moments that the tournament has given us. The occasions when teams have given everything, the seemingly insignificant acts that roused a nation and actions that spoke louder than words. These are some of the moments that made history and showed the world that rugby is more than just a game.
1995: Rugby unites a nation
Nelson Mandela knew the value of sport. When South Africa hosted Rugby World Cup 1995TM the president saw an opportunity to heal and unite an increasingly divided nation. Once regarded as a sport just for white men, Mandela made a poignant appearance on the pitch at the final against New Zealand, wearing the team’s traditional green cap and jersey. The vast majority of the stadium were stunned but followed with chants of “Nelson”. This small gesture by a beloved and respected head of state sent a message to the world that South Africa can be united, and rugby was the platform!
2003: An act of brilliance can change everything
Many rugby fans will argue that Rugby World Cup 2003TM was one of the most exciting.
The final between hosts Australia and England was a close contest from start to finish - confirming the ongoing rivalry between the two nations. But sometimes, when your back is against the wall, one moment can be the difference between winning and losing. With just 26 seconds remaining, England’s fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, made a historic drop goal that secured the title for the visitors - the first time a side from the northern hemisphere had won the competition.
2003: Respect & Reflect
At the 2003 clash between South Africa and Samoa, the most memorable moment was not what happened on the field (South Africa won convincingly 60-10) but rather what happened after the final which was a true show of camaraderie, sportsmanship and mutual respect.
Despite the lopsided score line, each team shook hands with each other after the final whistle, with some players even swapping shirts with their opposite number. South African flanker, Corne Krige, took things to the next level and encouraged both teams to huddle together to say a few words in prayer. Despite having just encountered one of the most physical 80 minutes of rugby, both teams showed that respect and the spirit of the game should always be considered paramount.
2015: A moment of kindness
New Zealand star Sonny Bill Williams had just secured back to back Rugby World Cup titles with his countrymen a while he was doing a lap of honour, a 14-year-old fan ran onto the pitch to congratulate him only to be tackled aggressively by venue security. Sonny Bill felt sorry for the boy, not only embracing him but in a true display of selflessness, gifted the boy his Rugby World Cup winners medal there and then. It was a wonderful example of the grounded mentality and humility that the New Zealand team has become known for. Despite being champions on the pitch at Rugby World Cup twice in a row, the team are exemplary ambassadors for the sport whenever they go.
2015 - The tale of David and Goliath
Japan took on the mighty South Africa in the pool stage in Brighton, a small community stadium on the South coast of England, having won only one Rugby World Cup match previously. With the odds massively stacked in South Africa’s favour, many people wrote off the tie as a nothing match (hence it was played at a lower capacity venue) but what took place was arguably one of the greatest David and Goliath moments in Rugby World Cup history. Feeding off the energy in the crowd, Japan stayed in contention throughout but in the closing seconds it seemed they might fall agonizingly short. They say fortune favours the brave, and the Japanese were richly rewarded when they pushed for a winning try rather than opting to go for a draw. Karne Hesketh dived over in the corner in the final move of the match to clinch a supposedly impossible 34 - 32 triumph. That split second of courage and determination changed Japanese rugby forever.
These moments represent the values that form the foundation of the rugby community. On the pitch players hit hard and leave no prisoners but once the final whistle goes respect and camaraderie prevail.
Japan and its unique culture will no doubt provide a new and refreshing perspective and as this is the first time the tournament will be played in Asia, there will be even more eyeballs on the action. With none of the favourites playing on home turf, no precedence has been set, the playing field is levelled and upsets are on the cards. We can’t wait to watch the special moments that will rewrite the history books at this year’s tournament.