It’s still unclear who Siya Kolisi and his team will face in their quarter-final in Japan, but we decided to take a look back at the highs, the lows, the records and the upsets in their previous RWC quarter-finals, going back to 1995, Samoa and Chester Williams in Johannesburg.
1995: Samoa in Johannesburg
With the late Chester Williams in scintillating form, the Springboks crushed Samoa’s hopes of reaching the Rugby World Cup semi-finals with an emphatic 42-14 win at Emirates Airline Park on 10 June 1995.
Williams scored four tries – a new Springbok record at that stage – as the Boks dismantled the brave Samoans in front of a packed stadium in Johannesburg, just two months after they beat the blue-clad Pacific Islander team by 60-8 in a RWC warm-up.
Apart from Williams, Chris Rossouw (hooker) and Mark Andrews (lock) also dotted down, while Gavin Johnson, playing on the right wing, kicked three conversions and two penalty goals as the Boks coasted into the top four.
1999: England in Paris
Springbok flyhalf Jannie de Beer kicked the living daylights out of England as South Africa progressed to the semi-finals on the back of a 44-21 win at the Stade de France, then still brand-new after it was built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup held in France.
De Beer’s five drop-goals on 24 October 1999 is still a record for the most field goals in a Test, but he also kicked five penalty goals and converted both the Boks’ tries – by Joost van der Westhuizen (scrumhalf) and Pieter Rossouw (left wing) – for a personal contribution of 34 points.
It was clearly a day for the kickers, as England’s 21 points came via the boots of Paul Grayson and Jonny Wilkinson, who kicked seven penalty goals amongst them. The day, however, belonged to “Monsieur Drop”, Jannie de Beer, who delivered a faultless kicking display in Paris
Rassie Erasmus, now in charge of the Boks in Japan as SA Rugby’s director of rugby, started that match on the flank.
2003: New Zealand in Melbourne
The All Blacks simply had too much fire-power for the Springboks, whose build-up to the Rugby World Cup in Australia had been marred by claims of racism and the infamous Kamp Staaldraad.
The Kiwis beat the Boks by 29-9 in front of 50,000 people in the Docklands Stadium (then the Telstra Dome) on 8 November 2003, with three penalty goals by Derick Hougaard all the South Africans could show for their trouble.
Keven Mealamu, Leon MacDonald and Joe Rokocoko scored for the All Blacks as the Boks had to return to South Africa without making the semi-finals for the first time.
But it was also the first time New Zealand managed to beat the Boks at a RWC, in three attempts.
2007: Fiji in Marseilles
The Springboks survived probably their biggest scare at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France against the gutsy Fijians and the final score of 37-20 doesn’t tell the full story of a very tough Test match, played on 7 October 2007.
Cruising at 20-6 ahead, the Boks let slip their guard for a moment and in minutes, the Fijians had pulled level courtesy of two superb tries, by Vilimoni Delasau and Sireli Bobo.
Credit to John Smit’s team though, they dug very deep, found another gear and thanks late tries by Juan Smith (flanker) and Butch James (flyhalf) – coupled with earlier five-pointers by Smit (hooker) and Jaque Fourie (centre) – safely progressed to the semi-finals.
Earlier in the tournament, the Boks’ so-called “B team” also got a massive scare from Pacific Islanders, scraping through by 30-25 in a pool match against Tonga.
2011: Australia in Wellington
In South Africa, this Test will always be synonymous with Kiwi referee Bryce Lawrence, but in the end, failing to convert their point-scoring opportunities cost the Springboks as they were beaten 11-9 by Australia in the Westpac Stadium.
The Boks rocked up on 9 October 2011 with a very experienced team boasting 836 Test caps in the starting team – at that stage their most experienced yet.
Two penalty goals and one drop goal by Morne Steyn (flyhalf) were not enough though as an early try by James Horwill and a late penalty goal by James O’Connor broke the Boks’ hearts as the Wallabies progressed to the semi-finals.
2015: Wales in London
Fourie du Preez scored the winning try in the 76th minute after a finely-executed move from the back of an attacking scrum, which saw the Springboks beat Wales by 23-18 at a packed Twickenham on 17 October 2015.
It was a good old arm-wrestle though and neither side gave an inch in a match that will be remembered for Duane Vermeulen’s behind-the-back pass to put Du Preez – who captained the Boks in the absence of the injured Jean de Villiers – over in the corner.
The Boks’ other 18 points came via the boot of Handré Pollard, who kicked five penalty goals and a drop goal, while Pat Lambie missed a late attempt at a field goal that would have sealed the deal for the South Africans, but it wasn’t needed in the end.