The Springboks were named International Rugby Board Team of the Year in 2009, edging out Six Nations winners Ireland.
The year began with a closely-fought 2–1 series win over the British and Irish Lions, which they followed with a convincing win in the Tri Nations Series, beating the All Blacks twice and losing only to Australia in Brisbane. They also won the Freedom Cup, against the All Blacks and the Mandela Challenge Plate against Australia.
Those performances took them to No 1 in the IRB rankings, although their year ended less successfully when they toured Europe in November, beating Italy, but losing to France and Ireland.
South Africa had brilliantly won their second Rugby World Cup, in France, in 2007 beating England 15-6 in the final, after going through the tournament unbeaten. Coach Jake White inspired a major turnaround in the team’s success after taking charge in 2004. Percy Montgomery was the highest points scorer in the competition, but Bryan Habana was acknowledged as the player of the tournament as top try scorer.