A history of All Blacks v South Africa at the Rugby World Cup
When you think of rugby rivalries, no contest springs to mind quicker than the enduring rivalry between the All Blacks and Springboks.
For over 100 years, the two fierce combatants have staged iconic matches and created unforgettable moments which have captivated fans across the globe. Over time, the rivalry has transitioned onto the grandest stage of them all – the Rugby World Cup.
The All Blacks first met South Africa on the World Cup stage at the iconic 1995 Rugby World Cup final. A tournament which united South Africa as the Rainbow Nation, introduced the world to the phenomenal Jonah Lomu, and has since been immortalised in the Hollywood movie Invictus.
After almost 30 years, the sides will once again meet in a Rugby World Cup final. A place in history awaits the winner as they will become the first men’s team in Rugby World Cup history to win four titles. Look back at the history between the All Blacks and South Africa at the Rugby World Cup.
All Blacks v South Africa at the Rugby World Cup
Won: All Blacks 3, South Africa 2
Points for: All Blacks 102, South Africa 77
1995, Johannesburg: A final for the ages
The historic 1995 Rugby World Cup final between the All Blacks and South Africa marked a pivotal moment in the sport's history. The context was as significant as the match itself, taking place soon after the end of apartheid in South Africa, symbolising the nation's unity and reconciliation. Both teams went through to the final unbeaten with the All Blacks dismantling England 45-29 in their semifinal and South Africa edging France 19-15 in their knockout clash. Nothing could separate the teams at the end of regular time in the final with the scores locked at 9-9. Penalties were traded early in extra time before South Africa first five-eighth Joel Stransky landed a clutch drop goal to secure the 15-12 win for South Africa. The victory sparked incredible scenes across South Africa and the footage of South African President Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok jersey and cap, presenting the Webb Ellis Cup to South African captain Francois Pienaar is regarded as one of the most iconic moments in sports history.
South Africa 15 (Joel Stransky 3 pen, 2 dg) All Blacks 12 (Andrew Mehrtens 3 pen, 1 dg). HT: 9-6
1999, Cardiff: Battle for Bronze
A try by wing Breyton Paulse and a pair of drop goals by fullback Percy Montgomery helped South Africa to a 22-18 win over New Zealand in the World Cup third-place playoff at the Millennium Stadium. South Africa led New Zealand 16-12 at halftime and the 1995 champions deserved their win against an All Black side who suffered their second successive loss following a shock semifinal loss to France. "We wanted to do this for ourselves, for our honour, for our county," said Springbok skipper Joost van der Westhuizen, whose team had been devastated by their semifinal loss to Australia.
The defending champions scored the only try of the game through Paulse, but neither side was able to stamp its authority on a dogged encounter.
All New Zealand's points came from penalties kicked by first five-eighth Andrew Mehrtens, while the rest of South Africa's points came from three penalties and a conversion from pivot Henry Honiball, who was making his Test farewell.
South Africa 22 (Henry Honniball 3 pen, con, Percy Montgomery 2 dg, Breyton Paulse try) All Blacks 18 (Andrew Mehrtens 6 pen). HT: 16-12
2003, Melbourne: All Blacks breakthrough
Leon MacDonald, Keven Mealamu and Joe Rokocoko broke New Zealand's World Cup try drought against South Africa in style as the All Blacks beat the South Africa 29-9 in the 2003 quarterfinal. First five-eighth Carlos Spencer was the mastermind of the victory, setting up the tries by MacDonald and Rokocoko and igniting the All Blacks attack from all parts of the field. It was a win that consigned the Springboks to their earliest World Cup exit and marked the end of New Zealand's World Cup nightmare against South Africa, never having beaten them or scored a try against them at the tournament previously.
All Blacks 29 (Keven Mealamu, Joe Rokocoko tries, Leon Macdonald try, 3 pen, con, Aaron Mauger dg) South Africa 9 (Derick Hougaard 3 pen). HT: 13-6
2015, London: Semifinal nailbiter
In match which had all the tension and drama of the 1995 thriller, the All Blacks showed incredible composure to hold onto a 20-18 victory and book their spot in the 2015 final. Despite scoring the only two tries in the match to Beauden Barrett and Jerome Kaino, the dead-eye boot of Handrè Pollard kept the Springboks in the match until the final siren. The All Blacks defence held firm in the final minutes to hold off South Africa and even the World Cup leger between the sides to two wins each.
All Blacks 20 (Beauden Barrett, Jerome Kaino tries, Dan Carter 2 con, pen, dg) South Africa 18 (Pat Lambie pen, Handrè Pollard 5 pen). HT: 7-12
2019, Yokohama: Japan curtain-raiser
A brilliant first half, which saw George Bridge and Scott Barrett both score tries within a five-minute period, set the foundation for the All Blacks 23-13 win over South Africa in the Pool B opener. At 17-3 down at the break, South Africa closed the gap to 17-10 through a Pieter-Steph du Toit try, but penalties to Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga sealed the game for the All Blacks. Despite losing their opening game, South Africa went on to win the tournament while the All Blacks were knocked out of contention by England in their semifinal.
All Blacks 23 (George Bridge, Scott Barrett tries, Richie Mo’unga 2 con, 2 pen, Beauden Barrett pen) South Africa 13 (Pieter-Steph du Toit try, Handrè Pollard con, pen, dg). HT: 17-3