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!”