In the second instalment of our RugbyPass Legends series, Martin Devlin sits down with ex-All Black flanker Josh Kronfeld to discuss his stellar career.
The start of the international career of Josh Kronfeld was nothing short of an absolute whirlwind.
With just one match under his belt – an All Blacks debut against Canada – the then 23-year-old flanker was thrust into Rugby World Cup action and tasked with bringing the William Webb Ellis Cup back to New Zealand.
In an exclusive interview with RugbyPass, Kronfeld revisited the All Blacks’ intense semi-final against England and the thrilling final showdown against host nation South Africa.
“The semi-final, everybody loves to talk about that game,” Kronfeld said. “I think for me, it’s probably the nuttiest game I’ve ever been involved in, in my life.”
“I didn’t understand until maybe five and ten years later why it was so nutty. I never understood how much that ’93 loss to the English at Twickenham affected all of those guys.
“There was some hurt, there was some pride, you name it. It was all chucked into this ball, this inferno of a game.”
Kronfeld then recalled being kept in line by senior players leading up to the match.
“That week, leading up to that game, I must have been told my job and my requirements for that particular game maybe fifteen times, from the same sort of six or seven players in that team.
“They were just like ‘you’ve got to do this, just make sure you do that, do that.’ I was going ‘I’ve got it guys, yeah, I’ve got it Fitzy [Sean Fitzpatrick]. I’ve got it Robin [Brooke].
“They were so fanatical about getting this game right.”
The flanker revealed that all the intense build-up had in fact stirred the team a little too much.
“When the game got into the final parts of the build-up, before we ran out, did the haka, the national anthem, all that sort of stuff, the boys started giving it the roar and getting the pump on.
“There’s froth coming out of the mouth, it’s like half of them had rabies. I can’t even explain the intensity of it.
“I’ve played some amazing tests for intensity and build-up and everything like that, but nothing on this world compares with that one moment. It was next level.
“So when we went out, it was just like… bleurgh! For like 60 minutes of that game, was just the All Blacks unleashing all the pent-up, crazy energy.”
Kronfeld then revisited the 1995 final, where the All Blacks lost to South Africa 15-12 after extra time.
“I got told to f*ck up”, Kronfeld said. “That’s the words that were used when I tried to express that we needed to change things up.”
“We were going wide, wide and just getting shut down. But I was the new boy on the block.
“The only time where I felt like we cut them up and looked dangerous was when we were doing stuff short in around Walter [Little] and Frankie [Frank Bunce] and Mehrts [Andrew Mehrtens].
“I think in the modern game, probably we wouldn’t have come unstuck like that because there’s so many more opportunities for the message to come down from upstairs.”
Regardless, Kronfeld credits the South African defence.
“They [South Africa] designed a way of dealing with our attack, and out offense, which was pretty impressive.”
“I think that was probably, when I look at that moment in history and time, we weren’t a team that was only capable of playing one way.
“We were very capable of playing all sorts of styles, and it was just a matter of realising it in that moment and making the adjustments and changes at the correct time.”
After the heartbreak of the 1995 World Cup, Kronfeld would go on to play in the 1999 iteration and finish his All Black career with 54 appearances.
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