In the second instalment of a series looking at our favourite World Cup memories, MARIETTE ADAMS relives Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen’s magic moment in 2015.
Since the inaugural tournament in 1987, the Rugby World Cup has been graced with the presence of the greatest players competing for the sport’s ultimate prize. Along the way and in the tournament’s rich history, there’s been elation, heartbreak, upsets, fantastic tries, dramatic late clinchers, stunning individual and team performances and instant magic moments.
Safely locked away in my memory bank, are a few wonderful World Cup moments that brought and still bring me unbelievable joy. But my all-time favourite World Cup moment comes from 2015 quarter-final between South Africa and Wales.
During every four-year World Cup cycle, there’s talk of how the northern-hemisphere nations will finally pull it together to usurp their southern rivals at the greatest showpiece of them all. In 2015, that sort of talk was even more enhanced because the World Cup was staged in the United Kingdom.
And it was touch and go for a moment there as it looked like both the Springboks and Wallabies would make their exit at the quarter-final stage at the hands of Wales and Scotland, respectively. But Bernard Foley landed a controversial last-minute penalty to give Australia a 35-34 win over the Scots, while Fourie du Preez scored a late try to help the Boks beat the Welsh 23-19. With those wins, the Boks and Wallabies joined the All Blacks (who beat France) and Argentina (who beat Ireland) in the semi-finals. An all southern-hemisphere and Rugby Championship semi-final lineup. Glorious.
But I digress. As mentioned, Du Preez scored the winning try for the Boks. But it’s the sequence of play in the buildup to his diving effort in the corner that brought a tear to my eye at the time and now will stay with me forever.
Having already suffered a most humiliating defeat in their tournament opener by Japan (JAPAN), Heyneke Meyer’s Boks appeared to be unable to overcome Wales’ resistance. Leading 19-18 with five minutes to go, Wales were poised for only their third victory against the Springboks in 109 years. South Africa hadn’t been playing all that well up to that point and for them to win the Test to stay in the contest for the Webb Ellis Cup, was always going to take a moment of genius. And Vermeulen produced it.
The hulking No 8 broke away on the blindside from an attacking scrum inside the Wales 22, drawing the attention of both replacement scrumhalf Lloyd Williams and wing Alex Cuthbert. Instantly recognising the space on the outside thanks to Cuthbert shooting in off his line, Vermeulen executed the most audacious no-look, reverse-flick offload to Du Preez, who read the play perfectly and ran an equally sublime angle to latch on to the pass before making a beeline for the tryline.
Big players stand up and stand out when the big moments require it and with his clutch play, Vermeulen proved he is as big as they come.
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