How S Africa's encounters with England mark their rise to power

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Class of '92

The team: J van Rensburg; J Small, D Gerber, P Muller, J Olivier; N Botha (capt), G Wright; J Styger, W Hills, K Andrews, H Hattingh, A Malan, C Strauss, F Smit, A Richter.

England 33 South Africa 16

Match facts: The fixture was steeped in history. England, early on, were steeped in mediocrity - Tiaan Strauss scored and the Springboks went into a surprise 16-8 lead. However, they were swamped in the second half and tries by Tony Underwood, Carling, Guscott and Morris consigned South Africa to a record number of points conceded.

Strengths: Succession of masterly kicks from Naas Botha (right), the South African stand-off, who crowned the performance by announcing his retirement. Strauss, the flanker, was outstanding.

Weaknesses: Many. An unvaried gameplan based around Botha's boot (why did those other Springbok threequarters bother turning up?). Poor organisation of the midfield defence (often very flat, more often offside) which England managed to exploit. Inability to handle the composed, structured game of the English forwards. Droves of mistakes: the penalty count against them was 18-8.

Soundbites: "Some people will be glad to see the back of me but at least I retire with my head held high. I never gave less than 100 per cent. I sacrificed everything for rugby, and it was worth it" Botha

"They'll take stock and they'll improve. I wouldn't bet against them winning the World Cup" Dick Best, England coach

Class of '94

The team: A Joubert; J Small, P Muller, B Venter, C Williams; H le Roux, J van der Westhuizen; B Swart, J Allen, A-H le Roux, J Strydom, S Atherton, F Pienaar (capt), F J Van Heerden, C Strauss (1st Test)/A Richter (2nd). Changes for 2nd Test: J Roux for van der Westhuizen, J le Roux for A-H le Roux, M Andrews for Strydom, I Macdonald for Van Heerden, A Richter for Strauss.

1st Test: S Africa 15 England 32 2nd Test S Africa 27 England 9

Match facts: South Africa were still not performing creditably on the world stage, but started the series as favourites after England's poor start to their tour. In the first Test, however, a sublime first 20 minutes made England uncatchable. In the second Test, five new players injected considerable steel into the Springbok side, the scores were level at half-time, but tries by Hennie le Roux and Andre Joubert then secured South Africa's victory.

Strengths: Well-ordered kicking by le Roux in the second Test. The emergence of Joubert at full-back, Mark Andrews at lock and Francois Pienaar (above) as captain. Improved continuity in the back row.

Weaknesses: Loss of possession in rucks and mauls. Poor handling in the backs. Presence of an ear-biter (Johan le Roux) at prop.

Soundbites: "We didn't lose, we were demolished" Jannie Engelbrecht, the Springbok manager, after the 1st Test

"In the history of South African rugby, this will go down as one of our proudest moments" Engelbrecht after the 2nd Test

Class of '95

The team (probable): A Joubert; J Small, J Mulder, H Le Roux, C Williams; J Stransky, J van der Westhuizen; T Laubscher, J Dalton, T van der Linde, M Andrews, K Wiese, F van Heerden, R Kruger, F Pienaar (capt).

Match facts: Barring injury, the side to play England on Saturday is likely to be the same XV that face Italy today. South Africa, playing under the slogan "Champions Away" are missing six of the World Cup squad through injury. James Small will be the only ever-present to have played against England in the modern era.

Strengths: Primarily an outstanding defence, the only defence in the world, in fact, capable of stopping Jonah Lomu and the All Blacks. This was the foundation of the World Cup victory. There is an ability to vary their game - to play it wide or keep it tight - and some superb individuals: Joost van der Westhuizen, probably the best scrum-half in the world; Joel Stransky (right), a great controlling fly-half (good drop-kick too) and two excellent jumpers in the second row.

Weaknesses: The absence of those World Cup winners (particularly Hannes Strydom). A tendency (still) for tempers to flare.

Soundbites: "We must be very humble in victory" Kitch Christie, Springbok coach, post-World Cup

"We boasted in 1987 that the World Cup was not won by New Zealand because we weren't there. The same happened in 1991. In '95, we proved that if we had been there, we would have won" Louis Luyt, the Sarfu president

Compiled by Owen Slot

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