Jannie De Beer was transformed from "occasional Springbok flyhalf" to "National Hero" when he kicked a world record five drop goals in the Springboks match with England at the 1999 Rugby World Cup. De Beer had been second-choice Springbok fly-half during the tournament, but an injury to Henry Honiball gave him the starting spot for the England test in Paris. The match remained close until De Beer took control in the second half, slotting his five drop goals to clinch a 44-21 victory and, ultimately, his place among the legends of Springbok rugby. The match gave Jannie a South African points record of 34 in a single test, and he also beat the great Naas Botha's record of three drop goals in an international match.
After the game the modest and deeply religious De Beer told a television reporter, "I don't want to take too much credit for the win, it was a team effort. The Lord gave me the talent and the forwards gave me the ball". Despite his record breaking performance, De Beer played just one more game in Springbok colours, his 13th and final cap coming in their semi-final defeat, 27-21 in extra time, against Australia. Ironically, it was a drop goal in injury time from Australian fly-half Stephen Larkham that finally won the match for the Wallabies, after De Beer had added one more to his tally and attempted several others. Jannie De Beer was only 19 when he first played for Free State in 1990, edging out Henry Honiball, who was to become his great rival in later years for the Springbok No.10 jersey.
He played superbly for the Junior Springboks against the All Blacks at Loftus Versveld in 1992; and starred on tour with the SA Barbarians to the United Kingdom in 1993, playing six matches and scoring 56 points. In 1995 he moved from Free State to the Gauteng Lions, hoping to enhance his Springbok chances by being based in Johannesburg, but spent long periods out with injuries. He returned to Free State in 1996, but spent much of the season as a back-up to their new fly-half sensation, M J Smith. In 1997 Jannie played impressively for Free State Cheetahs in their Super 12 campaign and then watched as the British Lions took a 20 lead in the test series owing to abysmal place kicking from the Springboks. As a reliable goal kicker, he was called up to make his Springbok debut in the third Test against the Lions and celebrated his first cap by scoring 13 points in an emphatic Bok win. The Springboks had a very poor Tri Nations in 1997, losing all but one of their matches. Henry Honiball returned as first-choice flyhalf for the end of year tour of Europe, although De Beer came on as a substitute in the win against France and started at 10 in the win against Scotland.
De Beer decided to finish his rugby career playing in the UK, where he signed for London Scottish. While at London Scottish, the director of rugby John Steele encouraged De Beer to bulk-up by incorporating weight-training into his fitness regime and he developed into a powerfully-built, more physical player. He considered qualifying for Scotland through a grandparent but decided to return to South Africa and have a last shot at a Springbok place. Nick Mallet recalled him to the national team for the 1999 Tri-Nations match against Australia in Cape Town, after an 18-month absence. A more relaxed and confident player than in his earlier test career, Jannie was selected for the 1999 World Cup squad as cover for Honiball, but became one of the stars of the tournament! In 2000 he returned to the UK, playing for Saracens in the English Premiership where a marvellous try he scored against Leicester Tigers in 2002 was short-listed for Sky Sport's "Try of the Season".
He announced his retirement on 14 June 2002, due to a persistent knee injury. In all, Jannie De Beer represented the Springboks in 13 tests and scored a remarkable 183 points. "I have not seen a better kicking display in my whole life than what I saw today, " said former Springbok captain Francois Pienaar, after De Beers' heroic display at the 1999 World Cup. "Jannie was awesome. I've never seen anything like it and I don't think we will for a long, long time." (Malcolm Finch)