RWC Moments: Jannie de Beer’s five drop goals
Springboks’ second-choice outhalf stood up to the plate to dash England’s hopes
Jannie De Beer of South Africa kicks the fourth of his five drop goals against England in the 1999 World Cup quarter-final at the Stade de France in Paris. South Africa won 44-21. Photograph: Dave Rogers/Allsport
Jannie de Beer’s five drop goals in a 44-21 quarter-final victory over England in 1999 was rated as the third greatest moment for the Springboks in a Rugby World Cup according to one South African newspaper.
But the former outhalf has found that the lustre has worn off a little since then, perhaps coloured by some of his experiences post match in which he was ridiculed by some for the religious overtones of his comments.
The then Springbok coach Nick Mallett made it very clear that Henry ‘The Blade’ Honiball was his first-choice outhalf for the tournament but a hamstring injury meant that De Beer was thrust into the pivotal role for most of the tournament and he responded brilliantly.
In the England match he kicked 34 points in total, including a world record five drop goals. The Springboks, who were underdogs against a heavily fancied England side, led 16-12 at the interval but De Beer’s three drop goals in nine minutes created some daylight on the scoreboard and he closed out the game with a further brace.
Brendan Venter and De Beer had spoken about the way England defended before the game and reckoned that the outhalf would have time to execute his drop kicks. It worked like a charm. His post-match comments meant that he spent much of his time clarifying what he said and meant.
South Africa lost the semi-final to Australia 27-21 with a seminal moment coincidentally a drop goal, this time though by Wallaby outhalf and incoming Munster backs’ coach Stephen Larkham. De Beer went to Mallett and offered to step down for the third and fourth place playoff to let a fit again Honiball play that match.
Mallett explained: “Jannie came and said to me that because he has such respect for Henry, he should play in that match and we beat New Zealand. It really spoke to the calibre of the two guys, they were so team oriented.”
Three years later in 2002, De Beer was forced to retire because of knee problems, having enjoyed a short spell at English club Saracens.
In 2012 a South African journalist Firdose Moonda sought out De Beer to talk about the 1999 Rugby World Cup but the former player wasn’t particularly forthcoming, saying “if you want to know about that game, it’s all over the Internet. It was great when I played; it was great but now,” his voice trailed off.
He disappeared from rugby circles and in the course of that interview confirmed that he does not watch much of the sport, except for one or two of the bigger matches. A director of a company that sources properties for South Africans overseas and a ministerial role at the Christian Revival Church occupied most of his time.
He said then: “I still love the game and if there is a big knockout game or final or international going on, then I will watch but it’s not a big thing anymore.”
An accidental hero of sorts.