Mention the 2000 Tri Nations, and people will recall memories of the breathtaking first Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney, a match that was inspiring, entertaining, gripping and showcased “the game they play in heaven” at its best.
A game to rival the 1973 Barbarians Vs All Blacks match as the greatest of all time.
However, there was another Tri Nations Test played in 2000 that can lay similar claims for consideration, a Test that is overlooked and seldom discussed when fans debate the merits of great Tri Nations contests from that year: the second Tri Nations Test between the Springboks and the All Blacks played at Ellis Park, won by South Africa 46-40.
It was a match equally as thrilling and entertaining as the first Bledisloe Cup and one where finally everything fell into place for coach Nick Mallet. The Boks, who had gone try-less in their prior two Tri Nations encounters, unleashed some breathtaking rugby and outscored the All Blacks six tries to four, with Springbok centre Robbie Fleck in outstanding form.
I don’t know what it was about Tri Nations rugby in 2000, maybe New Zealand, South Africa and Australia caught the Y2K bug that year and reprogrammed themselves to play more attacking rugby, a necessary dose of medicine after a World Cup year that didn’t exactly cover itself in glory (Special note: laws were unchanged from 1999)
It’s also a timely reminder to fans critical of the Boks current style of play and unsavoury incidents this year that they are also capable of playing beautiful, expansive rugby.
The teams named that day were:
Braam van Straaten
Hennie Le Roux