On Saturday the 17th June the Springboks were absolutely rampant in defeating the French, largely thanks to an inspired performance from birthday boy Siya Kolisi. But attention on the day also went back in time as the 17th June had previously produced one of the most iconic moments of South African sporting history but also one of the most devastating. Both of these moments were in World Cup Semi-Finals with majorly differing results. The two memories were an intense reminder about the near margins of sport and how on one day they go your way and another they don’t.
The Bad – 1999 Cricket World Cup Semi-Final
South Africa won the toss and elected to field. In seaming conditions, Australia managed to put up a total of 213 with Michael Bevan and Steve Waugh scoring vital half-centuries. Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald tore through the middle and lower order picking up 9 of the ten wickets between them. South Africa began their chase steadily with Kirsten and Gibbs putting on a good opening partnership. Wickets then fell at regular intervals as South Africa collapsed to 61-4. Jonty Rhodes and Jacques Kallis then put together a vital partnership taking South Africa within 40 runs of victory. Through some valuable runs from Mark Boucher and Pollock, and some big hitting from Lance Klusener, South Africa moved closer to the target.
Needing 9 runs to win off the final over Lance Klusener hit back to back boundaries to pull the Proteas level. However having lost to Australia in the super sixes just a few days before this, a draw was not sufficient for South Africa. Allan Donald was almost run out off the third ball of the over, but with three balls remaining SA knew they had time to win it still.
The fourth ball was similar to the third. Klusener mis-hit to Mark Waugh at mid off, but this time Klusener went for the run, even though the chances of a run out were high and there were still two balls remaining. Klusener sprinted down the pitch while Donald, at the other end, was watching the ball instead of his partner and did not hear the call to run. Waugh threw the ball to Fleming who rolled it along the pitch to Adam Gilchrist standing over the stumps at the batsman’s end. Donald (who had dropped his bat) was run out by some distance.
My parents heater felt the wrath as I kicked it as hard as I could and dented it. Unfortunately I did more damage to my toe. We had fallen short by the smallest possible margin and just showed how small the margins can be between success and failure.
The Good – 1995 Rugby World Cup Semi-Final
The storm in Durban meant that the match was almost called off, which would have been devastating for the hosts as a cancelled game would see France proceed to the final due to the red card received by South Africa in the group stages. The match was delayed by an hour and the commentators referred to the conditions as diabolical, but somehow a test match still took place.
As can be imagined in conditions like this, it was a battle of attrition and was tough as hell. The field at times looked closer to an ocean than a rugby field and there was genuine concern around player safety for a collapsed scrum or ruck. But the match went away!
At 70 minutes South Africa led 19-12 thanks to penalties by Joel Stransky and a try by Ruben Kruger. France pulled back with a penalty in the 77th min and then laid siege on the Springbok try line in a quest to win their place in the final. Camped on the Springbok try line France had scrum after scrum before a massive hit by Stransky and le Roux turned the ball over. Somehow under a siege and facing the inevitable score that would eliminate them, South Africa were on the right side of the most incredible semi-final.
The margins of victory and defeat have never been clearer than in the two examples above. On your day it goes your way and on another day it doesnt. Thats why we love sport.