On this day 20 years ago Adriaan Richter led South Africa out for its second 1995 Rugby World Cup pool match at Newlands in Cape Town against Romania. After a convincing 27-18 opening day win against Australia, most expected the Springboks to slay the Romanians, who themselves suffered a 34-3 defeat first up against Canada. However the Boks found the going far tougher than they would have liked. Coach Kitch Christie rung wholesale changes as the “gold team” ran out in the hope of impressing the boss enough to find themselves in the “green team”. Richter himself scored two tries on the day as the home scrum proved too strong for the visitors, with the Boks making heavy weather of a 21-8 triumph.
Richter did not actually play in the opening match against the Wallabies but recalls the mood in the change room beforehand. The former Bulls loose forward says: ‘The mood was high, tense but generally there was a good feeling. A feeling that things will go well. The coach prepped us about keeping our nerves down and (to just) continue playing our game. That was the most important thing. We had to play our game so we could dictate the match on our terms. If we could get that right then we were sure to win. Basically that was the mood in the change room minutes before the first kick off.’
Christie was the mastermind behind the 1995 triumph and Richter cannot sing the coach’s praises enough: ‘Christie was a man of few words. He got to his point as quickly as he could possibly do. He was serious about his work and this came out in the players. He was strict and disciplined. He expected his strictness and disciplines to be instilled in his players. He was also a good listener, who could take the advice of others and incorporate them into his game plans. He had a strong band with his players and there was an understanding between himself and his captain that went beyond coach and captain.’ Having missed out on the side for the opening match, Richter then found himself thrusted into the limelight as skipper for the day against Romania.
The 49-year old says he took it in his stride: ‘It was a normal reaction to me. I had been captain of a number of teams that I played for since my youth. I told myself that things shouldn’t be different as the pitch was still the same length, the ball the same weight and it was still 15 against 15. What mattered was how I conducted myself on the pitch and not whether we had a different captain for that match. It was a psychological issue that we overcame with ease. But the feeling was of joy: leading out my nation for a Test match.’
Richter would play again in the final pool match against the Canadians in Port Elizabeth, where he again scored a brace of tries from pushover positions, before being dropped to the bench for the quarter-final against Western Samoa in Johannesburg. Injury would rule Richter out for the remainder of the tournament however. Even so the man now enjoying life in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga says it was a memorable time: ‘No regrets. Firstly, I found myself on the bench for that match. I wasn’t used to being on the bench so it felt awkward for me seeing others do the job that I wanted to be a part of from the start. I did eventually come off the bench and I enjoyed myself. The pressure of not being the captain anymore was gone and I could play with a bit more ease. When going into the game, I didn’t know that, that would be my last match for the Bokke due to injury. But I left that field with no regrets whatsoever.’
Despite not playing again, Richter remains a World Cup winner and that is something no one can take away from him. His four tries also saw him lead the try-scoring charts for his country, level with Chester Williams, who scored his full portion against the Samoans in that quarter-final. On winning the tournament Richter says: ‘You can imagine the emotions. One of disbelief at what we had achieved and another of joy as we had believed from the very start that we were capable of achieving the feat. We walked onto that field as a country with a dark history, and left when we returned after the final whistle as world champions. We felt overwhelmed and the happiness among us in the locker room was evident in the faces of everyone, not only the players but the technical team and union bosses as well.’
Richter played for the Springboks from 1992 to 1995. He played 10 Tests for the Boks in total scoring the four tries that were all dotted down during the 1995 World Cup in South Africa.