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South African channel their inner Bradbury for the third time

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3rd November, 2019

South Africa claimed the Webb Ellis Cup on Saturday night after defeating England 32-12 at Yokohama Stadium in Japan.

Despite having a debatably easier draw, the Springboks have played good footy throughout the tournament and did what they needed to do to be crowned champions. Despite this, their third World Cup win has come in a similar fashion to their 1995 and 2007 triumphs. South Africa have pulled a Bradbury yet again.

For those unaware with the term, a ‘Bradbury’ is named after notable Australian speed skater Steven Bradbury, who won a gold medal in the 1000 metres short track speed skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Bradbury won the event in what was seen as true Aussie battler style – that is, in every race his rivals were either disqualified or fell over, which led to his eventual victory.

Siya Kolisi

(Juan Jose Gasparini/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

To Bradbury’s credit, he identified that he was not as fast as the younger skaters and needed to avoid collisions to make it through. The plan went perfectly, and Bradbury came home with Australia’s first Winter Olympics gold medal and status as an Australian sporting icon.

You may see the potential link between Bradbury and the South African rugby team. To any South Africans beginning to be a little offended, let me assure you that although jovial, pulling a Bradbury does not delegitimise the victory – if anything, it makes it better, as any Australian can assure you.

You may have seen the 1995 Rugby World Cup recreated in the movie Invictus, about a country brought together through sport and a beautiful moment in sporting history. The final was played between South Africa, the tournament hosts, and New Zealand, with the Springboks coming out victorious 15-12.

But the lesser-known story about the final between South Africa and New Zealand was marred by the fact that two-thirds of the All Blacks squad were horribly ill with stomach bugs. This was not revealed publicly until after the game was played.

The head of security assigned by Nelson Mandela to ensure the safety of the All Blacks team in South Africa believes they were poisoned, most likely by betting syndicates – the All Blacks were the favourites going into the match and odds needed to be levelled.


In the 2007 World Cup the Springboks won the final against England 15-6. The Wallabies and the All Blacks were knocked out in the quarter-finals by England and France respectively. The Springboks, on the other hand, had a slightly easier draw, defeating Fiji (37-20) and Argentina (37-13) in the quarter and semi-finals to progress to the final against England.

The funny thing about this match-up is they had already played against each other in the pool stage, when South Africa had won 36-0. Unsurprisingly the Springboks were heavy favourites for this match.

That brings us to 2019. There are certainly some similarities between the victories – comparatively easy finals draw against Japan (26-3) and Wales (19-16), Australia and New Zealand both already knocked out and of course the Bradbury finish. The Springboks became the first team to win the World Cup after losing a game in the group stage, having succumbed to the All Blacks 23-13. This time they were not heavy favourites, going up against a fierce England squad led by Eddie Jones.

The Springboks pulled a Bradbury just as they had done before, but they have the Webb Ellis Cup and each player has a medal around their neck, which is more than the Wallabies or the All Blacks can say.