Joel Stransky, A South African Icon

Joel Stransky is a household name in South Africa as our own King of 7s Serevi would be here in Fiji. Joel is best known for kicking the crucial drop
15 Feb 2015 08:57
Joel Stransky, A South African Icon
Joel Stransky with the Web Ellis Trophy.

Joel Stransky is a household name in South Africa as our own King of 7s Serevi would be here in Fiji.

Joel is best known for kicking the crucial drop goal in the 1995 World Cup Rugby final against New Zealand in extra time that secured the trophy for Nelson Mandela and the whole South African Nation.

The drop goal was scored with precious little time on the clock after extra time in the Rugby World Cup final when the two teams were deadlocked in battle.

It was an even more rewarding win as the whole tournament was hosted by South Africa, who with brutal strength of the forwards and silky skills of the backs hammered their way to the final.

With President Nelson Mandela looking on in the final, the pressure was intense to perform on the world stage. Joel did not let the President and also the nation down and played a superb cool and confident game throughout.

In fact he scored all of South Africa’s points during the game, which makes his feat to stay composed even more impressive.

Joel was not just a one-season wonder, his resume includes playing with the top teams in South Africa and in England. His kicking skills were second to none, with accuracy and power in abundance.

I have trained with Joel on the rugby field and it is just amazing what a gifted and hard working individual he is. I was fortunate to have a practice session with him in place kicks and drop goals.

At first I was feeling pretty good about myself as I was managing to slot quite a few balls over the bar, but as he went further back and started place kicking and attempting drop goals from 40 metres out he left me for dead.

It was then you really appreciated his balance and power on the field. It takes a certain type of individual to keep their cool when over 50,000 fans in the stadium and millions watching on TV are hanging on to one individual to make or break the team with a spot kick or drop goal. If that is the case Joel Stransky is your man.

Even off the field Joel is composed and a complete gentleman and I have been privileged to spend time with him.

Since retiring from rugby in 2000 because injury and the fact the doctor recommended a hip replacement because Joel basically were his hip out from the kicking and physicality of the game, he has seamlessly moved into the commentary box.

Today he is the Number One sports commentator in South Africa and enjoys almost hero worshipping when he is in the public arena.

To add to his popularity the 2010 Hollywood block buster film “Invictus” produced and directed by Clint Eastward was based around the world cup winning rugby side, which had Matt Damon and  Morgan freeman as lead actors pushed his fame one step further.

The film in fact helped immortalise the whole South African World Cup winning team of 1995, which had so many astonishing personalities involved.

One small detail that may not be well known to the masses is Joel Stransky is not an Afrikaner or a Christian as many would think.

He is in fact Jewish and was the only Jewish player on the whole team.

I have met Joel many times throughout both his and my careers and must say that he is one of the most down to earth, caring and very liberal people I have had the pleasure to meet.

I will leave you with old photo of our time together at a mutual friends party, also in the picture is Gary Teichmann one of the most successful South African Rugby captains in history and he led his side for six years from 1995 to 2000.

– The writer is a Fiji Sun columnist.

Feedback:  ajayamrit@hotmail.com


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