The World Cup Final Recap: South Africa vs New Zealand

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What a final! What an absolutely epic story! 

There were so many records broken and waiting to be broken in this game but there was really only one that both teams wanted… and now South Africa has it.

In short, the game started with South Africa dominating much of the first half with an extremely physical and suffocating display. 

The New Zealand team did what they tend to do in the second half and found another gear to go over for the only try of the match. 

It was a non-stop slugfest with neither team flinching and South Africa coming away with another 1-point victory to lift the Webb Ellis trophy for a record 4th time. 

This was honestly a game of 46 warriors. All of them were willing to fight to the death for their respective teams and countries and THAT made it a thing of beauty in my eyes. 

The All Blacks faced a Springbok team that wouldn’t back down to anything throughout the match but as they did, they kept probing and trying without ever giving up. 

They played hard and good rugby despite being starved of space and time on the ball. 

Brodie Retallick was immense and nearly single-handedly dismantled South Africa’s lineouts at times. 

On the day, he was really one of the most formidable forces for the All Blacks and it was the Brodie that previously won World Rugby Player of the Year that we saw in that final. 

This year’s World Rugby Player of the Year was just that little bit better. Ardie Savea could not have done more. He was a class act throughout the game and displayed the veracity and energy levels that no other player on this planet possesses. Well, not for 80 minutes at least. 

He is able to produce this in every single game and lead by example with the loss of Sam Cane due to the red card. 

Fighting an uphill battle with only 14 men was courageous, valiant, and honorable and I have complete respect for this team. 

After the game, Sam Cane was interviewed and asked about the red card. He showed a touch of class by simply stating that he should have known better and should have tackled lower. 

For me that summed up how you handle a situation like this when you can’t be hurting more from a loss and you might have a few choice words to share on your opinions of the officiating. 

He respected the referees and respected the game and Sam Cane and the All Blacks all deserve our respect. 

But the Springboks were truly something else. You could see that there was a fire in the team that could not be put out, no matter what. 

No one embodied the mood of this team more than Pieter Steph du Toit. He was an absolute force to be reckoned with in the final. There were two times that he stopped promising All-Black backline moves by putting in massive hits on Jordie Barrett. 

All of this counted toward his ridiculous tackle count of 28 tackles in the game. Marcos Kremer, who made the most tackles in the tournament, averaged just over 13 tackles per game. 

With the ball in hand, there were a few good runs from South Africa and they got over the line once but were held up. The game was definitely won on the back of Jacques Nienaber’s strength, namely defense. 

This was just emphasized once again by the try-saving tackle from an 80 kg Kurt-Lee Arendse on 105 kg Rieko Ioane. That was one of the defining moments of the game in my opinion. 

South Africa played to their strengths and a lot of their focus was on field position followed by secure defense. 

Pegging the All Blacks down in their own half in the first half, put them in range for Handre Pollard to get the 12 points South Africa needed. 

Keeping the dangerous All Blacks team just far enough away from the try line, helped to force the All Blacks to hope for kicks from a little further out than their kicker’s normal range. I felt bad for Jordie Barrett who had the opportunity to win the game but just had to attempt it from the very edge of his range. 

Overall though, it was a battle for the ages and definitely the right way for a final to end between the two biggest rivals in World Rugby. 

Quantifying exactly how the Springbok team did it and what their motivation was, is difficult to explain to someone who isn’t South African. 

Our UFC fighter, Dricus du Plessis, screamed it into the camera after beating Robert Whittaker… and this was done by Damian Willemse after the game screaming it into the crowd while holding on to the crest on his chest: 

“Hulle weet nie wat ons weet nie!”… 

“They don’t know what we know!”

Rugby World Cup: Final Preview

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This is the Rugby World Cup final we all wanted and we didn’t even know it. 

This year’s Rugby World Cup final will take place on Saturday between the rampant All Blacks and their traditional rivals, the Springboks. 

The All Blacks stormed into yet another final with a try-fest coming from their start winger, and tournament-leading try scorer, in a hat trick of tries against their hapless opposition.

The Springboks, by comparison, narrowly scraped through their rain-drenched semi-final with a lone try ultimately deciding the result. Unconvincing at times throughout the tournament, the Springboks face the mighty challenge of trying to stop their much-favored opponents this weekend. 

An almost precise repetition of what led to the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final in South Africa! 

The History

If you look at this special rivalry, you can’t look past some of the very significant stats surrounding these encounters. 

Overall, the two teams have met 105 times with the All Blacks winning 62 times, the Springboks 39, and a total of 4 draws. 

This gives the All Blacks a winning percentage of just a little more than 59%. 

Interestingly, the Springboks have been the most effective at stopping the All Blacks over the years, out of all the respective test-playing nations that they have faced. The second-best team is Australia who kept them down to a 70% win record, making sure they put a tiny dent in their all-time 77% win record. 

In their history, the All Blacks have had a 100% win record against 12 other test-playing nations, and the rest are placed somewhere in between. 

There have been countless close calls between these two teams over the years and the average winning margin for the All Blacks has only been 4 points over the years. The average score is 21-17.

Although that goes back for some time, we can’t expect this to be vastly different in this final.

Rugby World Cup history

There have been a number of meetings between these two giants of the game at the Rugby World Cup but none as historic as that memorable 1995 final. 

With an absolutely rampaging New Zealand team with the destructive Jonah Lomu running in tries for fun, the Springboks were given no chance.

The epic final went into extra time, which was eventually won on the back of a Joel Stransky drop goal

The whole build-up to the final had some controversy that went with it as well and it is difficult to know exactly what the full story was. 

This week already started with some controversy with the racial slur allegations made by England’s Tom Curry against Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi. 

The build-up to the game thus far has had social media channels blowing up with support for both teams and it is bound to be another historic day in Rugby World Cup history. 

The game will mark the first time a player has played in 3 x finals and we are talking about the legendary Sam Whitelock of course. 

The all-time try-scoring record is beckoning for Will Jordan.

…and most importantly, the winner will have the honor of being the first team to win 4 Rugby World Cups! 

The All Blacks

They weren’t really tested against Argentina and before that had some mixed results with their two major tests of the tournament. 

One was a failure against France and one was a win against Ireland in the quarter-finals. 

But the All Blacks have shown signs of their rugby brilliance as the tournament has progressed and they are exceptionally dangerous when they are offered a little bit of space to operate in. 

It opens up a number of attacking options for them ranging from kick passes to well-drilled backline moves that are exceptionally difficult to defend against. 

Their ability to keep their concentration and defend effectively for long periods of time has often formed the foundation on which they have built victories in difficult games. 

Their only weakness at times has been when they have been put on the backfoot and their forwards have not been allowed to lay a solid attacking platform. 

When their confidence is high they are nearly impossible to stop. If they are disrupted in these areas, they can be beaten.

The Springboks

South Africa has not had a flawless run through this World Cup by any means. They lost against Ireland in the group stages and beat France and England respectively by a single point and the narrowest of margins. 

The French win they can take more pride in than the semi-final match against England in many ways. Depending on how you look at it, the England win might be seen as more impressive as it was achieved on the back of an under-par performance and inability to adapt quickly to what England threw at them. 

They have been at their best when they have focused mainly on forward dominance to really suffocate other teams into submission. 

England nullified that to some extent in the semi-finals. 

But keep in mind that the Springbok team runs on a different kind of fuel and motivation than most other teams. In a country where a lot is going wrong, the Springboks are a beacon of hope and the team knows it. 

They play for their people, with an unrivaled passion, and this has been a big reason why they have been able to pull these results out of the fire over the past 2 weekends. 

My Prediction

Both head and heart this time tell me that it will be a back-to-back World Cup win for the Springboks. Most likely a reversed score of the All-Black average in these matches. 

Springboks to win by 4 points with the score at 21-17. 

It will be a brutal and beautiful contest that all rugby fans would be able to enjoy including the multitude of small battles that will decide the outcome of this war.

Rugby World Cup: Semi-Final Recap

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The semi-finals were a strange rollercoaster of exactly what one expected and exactly what one didn’t. 

The way it was supposed to play out was a relatively comfortable win for the All Blacks and South Africa respectively. 

But, England had other plans…

Let’s start with the first semi-final though.

New Zealand vs. Argentina

Argentina has shown in recent times that they can actually beat the All Blacks. They had a bad start to the World Cup with their loss to England but built up steadily from there. Their subsequent wins kept coming on the back of better performances although still not their very best. 

When they finally hit the semi-finals, the All Blacks pitched up in full force and made light work of them. 

There were a few times that the Argentinians threatened but this all faded away relatively quickly. Some more inconsistent refereeing decisions didn’t help the Argentinian team in their quest but the way the All Blacks played ensured there was only going to be one winner. 

As Aaron Smith said, they had a couple of scores to settle. They settled the first one against Ireland the previous week and this week ensured they don’t stumble at the semi-final hurdle. As they did against England in the last World Cup. 

It was also a historic day with Sam Whitelock continuing his amazing run as the most capped All-Black and Will Jordan equalling the most tries in a World Cup. 

They laid the table for a mouthwatering final! 

South Africa vs. England

I think only England had the belief that this game was going to be as close as it was. If you had a look at the game, England was absolutely amazing in how they completely shut down South Africa’s offensive efforts. 

For the first 60 minutes of the game, they nullified South Africa’s kicking game, lineouts, scrums, rucks, and backline. South Africa honestly looked a little hopeless at times. 

The only thing South Africa was getting right was keeping England from getting over the try line with their defensive efforts. The England team and Steve Borthwick deserve a ton of praise for the way they planned for this game and executed that plan on game day. 

With the introduction of the Bomb Squad from South Africa, there was a slow but steady shift in momentum. There was a change in energy and the effectiveness of a couple of facets. RG Snyman started dominating the lineouts and created a platform to attack from. 

In the scrums, Vincent Koch and Ox Nche were the catalysts for a South African comeback. Many have hailed Ox Nche and I can’t disagree with that. I do feel though that the credit should go to both front rowers. 

On the back of those scrums and the penalties it produced, South Africa started rebuilding in the last 20 minutes. The RG Snyman try in the 69th minute, gave the South African team the belief that they could pull it off. 

Then with two and a half minutes left, Handre Pollard stepped up for the 49m penalty goal that won South Africa the game. 

Should South Africa have won that one? Many would say “no” and I won’t be able to disagree with them, but South Africa did find a way. Again. For the 2nd weekend in a row. 

Despite the overall under-par performance, the manner in which they always find a way should be one of the things the All Blacks should be wary of. 

One last thing: as much as it pains me to say it, I think that Owen Farrell showed a lot of class after the game in his interview. He commended the South Africans for their win and how they came back, despite the clear pain you could see on his face. 

The England team really built something in this World Cup that is undeniable and it should be a warning sign for the other teams in the 6 Nations for 2024.

Semi Final 2: South Africa vs England

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This is going to be a classic! The replay of the 2019 World Cup final where the South Africans humiliated England is going to be a battle for the ages. 

England had not been their 6-Nations-winning-Grand-Slam-winning-World-Cup-final making best lately, in fact far from it. They have had a horrible two years. 

But, something that has shifted in their ranks. 

Steve Borthwick has gotten a lot of criticism since taking over the reins. If someone told you though that England would be in the semi-finals of the 2023 World Cup at the start of the year, you would have laughed them right off. 

Is England brilliant again? Definitely not. Have they been able to find a way to get the results? That is a resounding “Yes!”

They started with what I thought was an upset win against Argentina in their first game. They then cruised through their pool for the most part even though they weren’t convincing at times. 

Against Fiji, they managed to find the win. Then battled valiantly throughout the contest while their players were battered and bruised, and here they are now, in the semi-final.

What would it take for England to win? I can’t really see on paper or from their recent play how they will realistically win this one. 

They would need to find a way to stop the marauding South African forwards first, which I think would be nearly impossible for most teams. Then they need to contain the exciting back 3 of South Africa, which has proven to be difficult for most teams the past 2 years. 

Then, they would need to do this for 80 minutes and hope that the South Africans have an off day. 

I don’t think South Africa will have an off day, to be honest.

They have been building up steadily and played one of the all-time best classic Rugby World Cup matches against the French the past weekend. 

The French team is simply a much better side than the English at the moment. 

The South African team I think will go with the same 5/3 split for the weekend to give themselves a number of good options to dismantle England.

The forward pack should remain the same.

I think Faf de Klerk might come in for Reinach just because he has the experience in these types of matches and does a better job of disrupting opposition attacks, often like an extra over-eager flanker. 

It would also be sensible to have Pollard starting with Manie on the bench. South Africa might lose a little attacking flair but would gain scoreboard pressure with the penalties. 

On the bench, I would replace Willie Le Roux with Canan Moodie. It will bring in more options for the back 3 as well as coverage at the outside center position. 

The South Africans should come away with a similar score to the 2019 final with about a 20-point winning margin. 

The question is; can England can find a way to win two matches in a row, despite the odds against them?

Semi Final 1: Argentina vs New Zealand

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The big question is not whether New Zealand will win but rather whether a way exists in which Argentina can actually win this one. 

Starting with Argentina; we need to take into consideration what has come before this game to get a picture of their true chances. 

In the 2007 World Cup, they were semi-finalists where they lost their game but ended with a bronze medal.

In 2015, they were semi-finalists when they lost their game and missed their bronze medal against South Africa. Sanchez was the top scorer at the tournament with 97 points but in that match, he was outscored by Handre Pollard. 

In recent years they have beaten the All Blacks twice, the first time in their history. They have also grown in stature at this World Cup and they bring serious physicality to each game. 

If they want to give themselves a fighting chance, they need to do the following: 

  1. Play Sanchez – he has played at this level and knows how to keep the scoreboard ticking. Every point will count in this game for the Argentinians and one or two missed penalties might be the difference if they want to win.
  2. They can’t afford to have a weak moment – the Argentinian side isn’t known for their flair and excitement, but they get results with their continuous and punishing play. They will need to do that for at least 80 minutes (and a few extra seconds at the end of each half) to have a chance.

New Zealand on the other hand, and sadly for Argentina, are already in THAT mood. They have grown in their own self-belief and have a couple of scores to settle. 

They had one with Ireland as a result of the series loss last year. 

They have one with Argentina who beat them for the first time just a few years ago and have now done it twice. They also have a 28-year grudge about the final they lost against the Springboks back in 1995.

They have unsettled business. 

On the back of the resurgence of Sam Cane and the unwavering passion of Ardie Savea, they can let their lethal backline loose on the Argentinians. 

The challenge for Argentina is that they will have to constantly shift their focus from the forwards to the backs, and be equally effective in stopping both. If they over-steer to either side of their play, the All Blacks will punish them.

I think it will be a valiant fight by the Argentinians and if the end result isn’t a 1 or 2-pointer, it’s going to be a runaway game and we could see the All Blacks win by 15 to 20 points.

Quarter-Finals Team of the Weekend

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This one we are bringing you in collaboration with the Rugby United Podcast. 

It would be difficult to just pick a single team as there were some mammoth performances, but this would have been our team of the quarter-finals: 

  1. Steven Kitshoff – in combination with Frans Malherbe they were able to dominate against a very strong French scrum. Steven also picked up a couple of meters on the run and was solid in defense and in rucks.
  2. Peato Mauvaku – one of the most dynamic hookers I have seen in recent years. Accurate at lineouts and he runs like a center. He scored a brilliant try for France.
  3. Frans Malherbe – the rock on which South Africa’s scrums are built. It is difficult to find a better tight head globally and he showed over the weekend that this is where his prowess starts and then he combined it with a high work rate in rucks and tackles.
  4. Eben Etzebeth – he is probably the top lock in the world at the moment and put in another immense performance for South Africa. He was a great ball carrier and put in massive hits throughout the game.
  5. Tadhg Beirne – one of the many great performers in a losing cause for Ireland, worked tirelessly on the less spectacular but badly needed parts of the game. He performed well at lineout time but put in the tireless tackles around rucks and probably was at the top of the list of all the number of rucks he attended.
  6. Ben Earl – was one of the standout players for England. He played his heart out and had a massive impact with the ball in hand. There was no contest he shied away from and was a constant pest at the rucks, helping to disrupt Fiji’s momentum.
  7. Marcos Kremer – he brought brutality to all collisions and made it extremely difficult for the Welsh team to get any momentum in the game. He carried strongly and put in a number of positive tackles.
  8. Ardie Savea – put in an absolute classic performance. His passion drove a lot of the results for his team and he outshone the rest of the forward pack with his work rate with and without the ball.
  9. Antoine Dupont – coming back from a fracture and playing your heart out for your country like that has to be commended. There wasn’t a minute where he didn’t give his all to try and help France win. His box kicks and passing were precise and he helped to give his team the best possible chance of a win.
  10. Richie Mo’unga – one commentator said that he has always been amazing for the Crusaders but has never put in a game-changing performance for the All Blacks. In this game, he DEFINITELY put in that performance. Solid on the kicking tee, creative in putting away players outside him, and crafting the line break that was the difference between the two teams.
  11. Cheslin Kolbe – it would not be possible to ask more of a winger. He defended valiantly, had a number of telling runs, and scored an epic try. His charge down of the Ramos conversion was however a testament to his willingness to never give up.
  12. Garry Ringrose – was able to outshine his spectacular center partner Bundee Aki in this game. He barely put a foot wrong and helped to give shape to a number of ferocious Irish attacks. He defended bravely and organized the Irish backline very well throughout the game.
  13. Jesse Kriel – gave absolutely everything! It was probably his best performance in a Springbok jersey to date. He tackled, ran with the ball, and put through the kick for Kolbe which resulted in his try. You could just look at the photos of his face after the game to see what effort he put in.
  14. Will Jordan – there are few finishers in the world more lethal than Will Jordan and he just showed it once again when it counted. If you see him outside you, just get the ball to him. He will do the rest.
  15. Marcus Smith – another display that is best explained when looking at his various blood-soaked and battered images throughout the game. Despite being dominated in a number of contact situations by the mammoth Fijians, he never backed down. There were some good flashes of brilliance on attack but that display of dedication to defend the line for his team gives him the nod.

There are a number of other players who had massive games and should also be mentioned. They include Bundee Aki, Sam Cane, Alex Mitchell, Franco Mostert, Levani Botia, Johnny Sexton, and Tyrell Lomax.