23 November 2002
South Africa’s visit to Twickenham in 2002 will go down in history as one of the most physical and brutal games of the modern era. England were drawn in the same pool for the early stages of the 2003 RWC and the Springboks wanted to put down a marker a year ahead of their world tournament meeting in Australia.
From the outset, it was clear that the Springboks were going to employ whatever methods they could to rile the English. Late hits, stray elbows and general skulduggery seemed to be the order of the day, with the likes of Butch James, Corné Krige and Robbie Fleck the primary instigators.
Despite a late hit from Krige on Jason Robinson and having been warned over their conduct by legendary ref Paddy O’Brien, the South African appetite for destruction continued. In the 24th minute their young lock Jannes Labuschagne hit Jonny Wilkinson an eternity after he’d made a clearing kick and there was only one choice for the referee. A red card for Labuschagne brought a game changing moment.
From then on, England controlled the game and squeezed the life out of South Africa at every opportunity. England ran in seven tries, including two for centre Will Greenwood, and finished with a devastating 53-3 victory, heaping on the opposition the worst loss in Springbok rugby history and a record England victory against them.