PICS: Joel Stransky – 1995 World Cup drop-goal hero remembers

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.


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…

Subscribe to continue reading this article
and support trusted South African journalism

Access PREMIUM news, competitions
and exclusive benefits

SUBSCRIBE
Already a member? SIGN IN HERE

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.

25 years later the 1995 Rugby World Cup heroes return back to the Park.
Left – Right: Hennie le Roux, Hannes Strydom, Joel Stransky, Japie Mulder, Krynauw Otto, Christiaan Scholtz, Rudie Joubert, Rudolf Straeuli, Adriaan Richter, Johann Roux. Picture: Twitter / @LionsRugbyCo

“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 (2010, cancer), scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen (2017, motor neuron disease) and wings James Small and Chester Williams (2019, both heart attacks) were remembered.

Friends and former teammates of James Small, including Joel Stransky, second left, prepare to take his casket inside of a closed funeral at Wanderers in Illovo, 18 July 2019. Picture: Neil McCartney

“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 [captain] Francois [Pienaar] 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.”

Joel Stransky, World Cup Final, 24 June 1995, Ellis Park. SA 15 NZ 12. Photo credit: Tertius Pickard / Gallo Images

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 [Markgraaff] wasn’t interested in keeping us together,” Stransky said.

“He probably had his own agenda and it was probably not the greatest time in South African rugby under his leadership and tenure.

“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.”

Joel Stransky, World Cup Final, 24 June 1995, Ellis Park. SA 15 NZ 12. Photo credit: Tertius Pickard / Gallo Images

Stransky played for Leicester Tigers between 1997 and 1999 and due to his English ancestry, there were talks that he could have 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.

Joel Stransky of the Springboks receives his 1995 RWC medal from Nelson Mandela in Pretoria, South Africa (Photo by Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images)

“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.”

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.”

news@citizen.co.za

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.

Read more on these topics

Nelson Mandela

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits