By NZRW Editor: Gregor Paul

Ten of the Greatest All Blacks Games: #01

The inimitable Zinzan Brooke and our favourite All Blacks game from the last 25 years.

PHOTOSPORT

South Africa 26
New Zealand 33

Loftus Versfeld, August 24, 1996


 Background

The All Blacks had emerged from the pain of World Cup defeat a stronger, more determined team in 1996. They were undefeated when they headed to South Africa for a four-test series and desperate for revenge having lost the 1995 final to the Springboks. Having never won a series in the Republic, the All Blacks felt they would never have a better chance given their experience and form and came into the third test having won in Cape Town and Durban.


How it Played Out

The Boks may have lost the first two tests of the series but they were still a fearsome side, made more so by the desperation they felt at knowing they were playing to keep the series alive. They threw everything at the All Blacks – their forwards crashing like men possessed, while the backs found some cohesion and a desire to move the ball. The Boks scored early but the visitors stayed calm, kept their set-piece work strong, moved the ball with confidence and defended heroically to reach the break 21-11 ahead. The second half was brutal with two great teams refusing to give an inch. With four minutes remaining and the All Blacks leading 30-26, Zinzan Brooke took it upon himself to drop a goal. Frantic defence in the closing stages allowed the All Blacks to secure the historic series win.


 Heroes

This was an enormous team effort but special mention has to be made of Jon Preston, who came off the bench in the final quarter to kick two long range penalties. Brooke was in his element, scoring a crucial try as well as his drop goal while the front five not only stood up to the Boks, they had them back-pedaling at times in a relentless surge of energy and dynamism.


 Context

At the final whistle Sean Fitzpatrick dropped to his knees in a mix of relief, joy and exhaustion.  He rated the series win a bigger achievement than the World Cup victory of 1987. This victory made history – and former All Blacks everywhere were reduced to tears seeing that so many had tried and failed to achieve this. The win not only marked the current team as something special – they went on to lose just one test in two seasons – it perhaps turned the advantage in this great rivalry in favour of New Zealand. The victory changed mind-sets about playing in South Africa and since then the All Blacks have travelled to the Republic confident they can win.


 Scorers

New Zealand 33

J. Wilson (2), Z. Brooke tries, S. Culhane 3 cons, pen; J. Preston 2 pens; Z. Brooke DG.

South Africa 26

R. Kruger, J. Strydom, J. van der Westhuizen tries; J. Stransky con, 3 pens.

End Sign