Springboks vs the All Blacks – The Great Rivalry

Why is Springboks vs the All Blacks such a big game in sport?


The Springboks (South Africa) and the All Blacks (New Zealand) have been battling against each other for almost a century. The first Springboks vs All Blacks game was in 1921. Every rugby test match played since then has served to strengthen the rivalry and respect between these two proud rugby-playing nations. A Springboks-All Blacks match is widely considered the benchmark of rugby greatness. Whilst the rivalry between them is characterised by gutsy competitiveness, beneath it all lies a mutual respect among every player who wears a black, or a green and gold jersey.

When did the Springboks vs All Blacks rivalry start?

The greatest contest in rugby began nearly a century ago, when the two teams first met in a test match during the Springbok's 1921 tour to Australia and New Zealand. The All Blacks won the first test 13 – 5 in Dunedin. 

Between 1921 and 2018, the teams subsequently met on another 96 occasions. While the All Blacks hold a favourable win record, with 58 victories in total, just about every clash of these rugby titans yields memorable moments. 
The year South Africa and the All Blacks first played each other


The Springboks first played the All Blacks on home soil on 30 June 1928 in Durban. South Africa beat New Zealand 17 – 0.


The inaugural Investec Rugby Championship test (known then as the Tri-Nations) between New Zealand and South Africa was played in Christchurch on 20 July 1996.

Five highlight moments from the modern, post-isolation era:

1. The rivalry resumes

Rather fittingly, it was against New Zealand that South Africa made their official return to first-class international rugby

On 15 August 1992, the Springboks took to the field at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, led by the legendary Naas Botha, to officially emerge from 11 years of isolation and resume the rivalry that politics had unceremoniously curtailed. 
While the 'Return Test' was a thrilling spectacle, with both sides scoring three tries each, it showed how a lack of international experience had taken its toll on South African rugby. South Africa lost 27-24, this match was a seminal moment in the sport's history. 
In a team that included future legends of Springbok rugby like Pieter Hendricks, James Small and Hennie le Roux, the 1992 test match laid the foundation for what would prove to be the Springbok's greatest victory over the All Blacks at the same venue three years later.

2. South Africa wins the World Cup

Joost van der Westhuizen - RWC 1995

Francois Pienaar - RWC 1995

President Nelson Mandela - RWC 1995
The 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa captured the attention of the world and on 24 June, culminated in one of the most memorable moments in sporting history.  

The hallowed ground of Ellis Park once again played host to a battle of epic proportions. There are many moments from that day that stand out for Springbok fans, from President Nelson Mandela emerging from the tunnel wearing the green and gold, to inimitable Springbok captain, Francois Pienaar hoisting the William Webb Ellis trophy aloft to a rapturous response from an entire nation.  

However, the best moment from that memorable day was the Joel Stransky extra-time drop goal that secured South Africa their grand 15-12 win over their greatest rivals, and their first World Cup title.

3. The 1996 series decider

Sean Fitzpatrick, now chairman on the Laureus Sports Academy and the former All Black hooker and captain, is a colossus of world rugby. As one of the most decorated captains in the game, alongside compatriot Richie MaCaw, Fitzpatrick has publicly rated the All Blacks' first series win in South Africa as his greatest achievement as captain, alongside his 1987 World Cup win.
While Springbok fans might disagree based on the outcome, the lost three-test series remains one of the best. The All Black team led by Fitzpatrick secured the series with a nail-biting 33 – 26 win at Loftus Versfeld, following a 23– 19 win in the first game. 
Beyond the enthralling series decider, it is a hugely significant moment in rugby history, for two reasons. Firstly, it took 58 years for the All Blacks to achieve that accolade, and it was also the final series between the two nations before the dawn of full professional rugby.  While it was technically a dead rubber, the Springboks regained some pride with a 32 – 22 win in the third test.

4. The unforgettable 2009 season

Richie McCaw, the All Blacks' most decorated captain, famously rated John Smit’s 2009 Springboks as the greatest opponents he ever played against. Rugby scribes have dubbed the squad as the “last great rival of the All Blacks”. 

Many rugby pundits would argue that 2009 was the best season in Springbok history. John Smit's men, who were the reigning World Cup champions after their 2007 exploits, beat the All Blacks 3 – 0 to claim the Tri-Nations title. This earned them the honour of becoming the first side ever to beat the All Blacks with a series whitewash. 

5. South Africa's 2018 win in Wellington

“Heroic” is the term most often used to describe South Africa's Herculean defensive effort to ward off an All Black fightback in Wellington in 2018. 

The Springboks won that Investec Rugby Championship match 36 – 34. It was the team's first win in New Zealand since the epic 2009 series whitewash. Players and commentators alike acknowledged the game's significance, no one more so than Pieter-Steph du Toit.
After the All Blacks took their chances early in the game, the Springbok backline sparked a fightback that the forwards secured with one of the best defensive displays in rugby history. When Damian McKenzie lost the ball mere metres from the try line in the dying minutes, the Springboks secured their historic win, which brought du Toit to tears. 
The image of a two metre tall blindside flank with tears streaming down his face epitomises the inherent meaning and emotional intensity behind the Springbok-All Black rivalry, and is one more reason why each match brings out the #bestofthebest in rugby rivalry.  



The statistics that shape the greatest rugby rivalry

Head to head

Winning streak

Winning margins

Points scored

Aggregate score

Head to head

The Springboks and All Blacks have played 97 test matches against each other between 1921 and 2018. The All Blacks have won 58, the Springboks have won 36 and there have been three draws.

Winning streak

New Zealand holds the longest winning streak between the two nations, winning eight matches in a row over a three year period between 21 July 2001 and 14 August 2004.

Winning margins

The biggest winning margin between New Zealand and South Africa is 57 – 0 in favour of the All Blacks. The test match was played at the QBE North Harbour Stadium in Albany on 16 September 2017 in the Investec Rugby Championship.


South Africa's largest winning margin against New Zealand is 17 points, when the Springboks beat the All Blacks 17 – 0 in Durban in 1928.

Points scored

At the end of the 2018 international rugby season, New Zealand has scored 1,959 points in test matches against South Africa. The Springboks have scored 1,500 points against the All Blacks.

Aggregate score

The highest aggregate score between South Africa and New Zealand is 90 points. The All Blacks won the Auckland test in 1997 by 55-35.

Leading point scorers

Most points by player

Top try scorer

Leading point scorers

Morné Steyn (139) and Percy Montgomery (106) are the leading Springbok point scorers against New Zealand. 

Dan Carter is the leading All Blacks point scorer against the Springboks with 255 points.

Most points by player

South Africa's Morné Steyn scored the most points by a single player in a test match between the Springboks and the All Blacks. His 31 points in the August 2009 test match in Durban consisted of one try, one conversion and eight penalties. Steyn's tally accounted for all of South Africa's points in their 31-19 win. 


Carlos Spencer scored the most points by a single player in a test match between South Africa and New Zealand. His 25 points in the August 1997 test in Auckland consisted of one try, four conversions and four penalties.

Top try scorer

Bryan Habana is the top try scorer (7) for South Africa against New Zealand.

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