Carly Ando
The Daily Telegraph
June 24, 2015 12:43PM

TWENTY years ago, to the day, the final whistle of the Rugby World Cup sounded and an entire team fell to its knees, while a new nation erupted all around them.

It was a history-making moment that inspired a Hollywood movie and today the surviving members of South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup team will reunite on Johannesburg’s Ellis Park turf to remember it. Not that it will ever be forgotten.

June 24, 1995. South Africa, the hosts, beat New Zealand 15-12 at Ellis Park Stadium to win the final and record one of the greatest sporting moments of the 20th century. It wasn’t just the triumph of the underdog that makes the match a standout — history has provided plenty of those tales — but it was the perfect example of the healing power of sport.

The Springboks had been readmitted to international rugby barely three years earlier following the abolition of Apartheid and the country’s late, great president Nelson Mandela was just 15 months into his term.

South Africa was still reeling from the effects of Apartheid, divided along colour lines and the threat of civil war a real one. Rugby had always been considered a ‘white man’s’ sport, but Mandela made the decision to embrace the tournament and publicly backed the predominantly white Springbok team in the lead up to it.

“Sport is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers,” he declared.

How right he was.

In front of a multi-racial crowd — which included Mandela, wearing his own Springbok jersey — singing a new anthem, waving the country’s brand new flag, the Springboks went on to do the unthinkable.

All the talk leading into the final had been around Jonah Lomu, the All Blacks’ giant winger who had bulldozed his way over England in the semi-final. How would the South Africans stop him?

By swarming around him every time he got the ball, was the answer. It worked that day, as it did for the rest of Lomu’s career — he never managed to score a try against the Springboks.

But the winning moment, the healing moment, came when fly-half Joel Stransky slotted the telling drop-goal in extra time to secure the most famous of victory’s. He turned, he knew, and it was over.

There was hugging in the crowd, cheers on the streets, tears on the field — there would be no civil war, South Africa had changed forever.

“We didn’t have 60,000 South Africans,” Springbok captain Francois Pienaar famously said of the crowd in the stadium.

“We had 43 million South Africans.”

For the All Blacks, heartache, but they played their part in history and just might look back on the game and think, ‘Yeah, it probably wasn’t a bad one to lose’