Rassie and I go way back – we were opponents at provincial level, team mates with the Boks and later in life we even coached against each other. I’ve always had massive respect for his “rugby brain” and I believe the Boks are in good hands.
This year is also the 20th anniversary of the Boks’ first triumph in what was then still called the Tri-Nations. New Zealand won the competition in its first two years, but in 1998, under Nick Mallett, we clinched the title, winning all four our matches.
It was a great year for the Boks and the four victories during the Tri-Nations were part of a then record-equalling run of 17 consecutive Test wins.
Looking back at the competition between us, the Wallabies and the All Blacks in 1998, we realised that we had to win away from home if we were going to be successful. We had three good results in the midyear Tests against Ireland, Wales and England and we arrived in Perth high on confidence to face the Wallabies.
It was a special Test as it was the first ever in Perth. Joost van der Westhuizen scored our only try and Percy Montgomery added three penalty goals, and we snuck through 14-13 for the Boks first win in Australia in five years.
Up next were the All Blacks at Athletic Park in Wellington – and at that stage, the Boks had not won in New Zealand since 1981. It was also the 50th Test between South Africa and New Zealand and very little separated the two countries up until then.
The ground was heavy but we played well and I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to round off a move we trained during the week. It was the only try of the match which we ended up winning 13-3 and by that stage, we really believed we could win the competition.
But we still had two games at home left and we didn’t start well at all against the All Blacks in Durban. The score at the break was 17-5 to New Zealand and it stretched to 23-5 with 12 minutes to go, but sparked by a magnificent solo-try by Joost, we clawed our way back into the match.
Bob Skinstad and James “Bullet” Dalton also crossed the whitewash and we snuck in, winning 24-23 in what is still regarded as one of the best Bok fightbacks of all time.
The final match was at our fortress, Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg, and the Wallabies had no answer as we scored two tries and kept them from scoring any en route to a 29-15 victory, and Gary Teichmann had the honour to lift the trophy.
It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since that time, but it’s a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life, and I’m sure my team-mates would feel exactly the same!
To Rassie, Siya and the Boks – best of luck for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship – I know you have what it takes to be successful and I would like to ensure you that I’m 100% behind you in the coming months, as I’m sure all my team-mates from 1998 are too!
Pieter Rossouw played on the wing for the Springboks between 1997 and 2003, and one of the highlights of his career was scoring the try which was the difference between the Boks and the All Blacks as South Africa won their first Test in New Zealand in 1998, since returning from isolation. He has coached at various levels since retiring from the game, amongst others at the Vodacom Bulls and Paarl Gymnasium.
Note: This column first appeared in Springbok Magazine.