Springboks reign once more! South Africa retain their World Cup crown after nerve-shredding 12-11 win over New Zealand in Paris – their third consecutive victory by just ONE point… as they become first side to lift trophy for a fourth time
The tension was so high that the Webb Ellis Cup could have been squeezed and compressed into gold bullion. A flawed but compelling final that Cheslin Kolbe watched through his finger tips as South Africa, remarkably, became the first nation to be crowned champions four times.
It was maximum intensity. The rain poured and at times it felt like a rugby apocalypse of eviscerating physicality. A superheavyweight fight that went right to the death. It was beautifully ugly. Painfully compelling. Low scoring but high stakes, ending with 14 against 14 after a red card for Sam Cane and a yellow card for Kolbe.
There were riotous scenes of joy and relief in the South African corner as they held on with a desperate defensive stand. Pieter-Steph du Toit put in an incredible 28 tackles – most of which were so strong that they would reverberate through Paris.
The pre-match show was full of glitz and glamour. Dan Carter and Sophie Turner presented the trophy in a Louis Vuitton casket, before Mika took to the stage in a sparkling suit, almost smashing the windows with his falsetto notes. The action on the pitch could not have been anymore different. Grit and grunt. A total dogfight in the rain.
The last time these rugby teams met in a World Cup final was in 1995, when Nelson Mandela presented the trophy to Francois Pienaar wearing a Springboks jersey. For so long the shirt had been associated with white privilege but in 80 minutes it became a symbol of unity. It was even turned into a Hollywood movie.
Under Siya Kolisi, the national team has once again become a tool of togetherness. They delve into their hardships and use it as a force for the greater good, reaching an emotional pinnacle the opposition can struggle to live with.
But this week’s racism allegations against Bongi Mbonambi have been damaging and the hooker was under the spotlight.
He was his team’s only specialist hooker but after 90 seconds his night was over. All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell rolled all 114kg of his weight onto the side of his knee at the ruck and his joint buckled.
It was a dirty, ugly clearout that resulted in a yellow card for Frizell. Curiously, Mbonambi was only registered as a tactical substitution as he limped off.
Ill-discipline was the story of the game. Penalties gifted points and Handre Pollard took every three pointer that came his way.
The Springboks buckled up defensively. The All Blacks tried to find edges in attack but men in green flew up to prevent the ball from reaching the wide channels.