Springboks clinch World Cup Final against New Zealand
In a nail-biting conclusion to the Rugby World Cup held in France, South Africa narrowly defeated their age-old rivals, New Zealand, with a score of 12-11. This victory marks the Springboks' fourth global title, while the All Blacks remain with three to their name.
The scene was electric at a jam-packed and rain-soaked Paris. South Africa, having reached the World Cup finals four times previously (1995, 2007, 2019), has now taken home the trophy every single time. Notably, two of these victories were against rugby's other superpower, New Zealand—the first being in 1995, an iconic win on home soil during the early presidency of Nelson Mandela.
The Springboks' path to the title wasn't without its challenges. They faced a loss to Ireland in the group stages, attributed mainly to missed penalty kicks. Yet, in the knock-out phase, they displayed resilience. They overcame top favorites France in the quarter-finals (29-28) and staged a comeback against England in the semi-finals, edging them out 16-15.
Facing New Zealand in the finals, South Africa had to endure an intense second half. In all three matches, Handre Pollard played a decisive role. His penalty kicks, which had faltered against Ireland, were on target when it mattered most.
Starting strongly at Stade De France, the Springboks immediately pressured the All Blacks, capitalizing on their mistakes. Pollard's merciless penalty kicks punished every error. The fly-half, renowned for his kicking prowess, had also clinched the 2019 final against England (32-12) with his impeccable technique. In the first half, he was a perfect four from four, setting the tone against their rivals. New Zealand's Richie Mo'unga managed only two penalty kicks in response.
A significant turning point came when New Zealand's Sam Cane received a yellow card, which was later upgraded to red, leaving the All Blacks with only 14 players for most of the match. By halftime, the score stood at 12-6 in favor of the Springboks.
Yet, Paris had surprises in store. Despite being a man down, the All Blacks surged after the break, applying immense pressure on South Africa. In a tense moment, the South African captain, Siya Kolisi, received a yellow card, leveling the teams at 14 players each for ten minutes. A potential try by Aaron Smith was disallowed due to a forward pass, and even though Kolisi avoided a red card, the All Blacks' Beauden Barrett still managed to score a try. However, Mo'unga missed the crucial conversion, leaving the score at a narrow 12-11.
Looking Ahead to the 2024 Six Nations
While the Rugby World Cup has drawn to a close, fans already have their eyes on the upcoming 2024 Six Nations tournament. The England rugby team, narrowly defeated by the Springboks in the World Cup semi-finals, will undoubtedly be keen to reclaim their spot at the pinnacle of Northern Hemisphere rugby. After their gritty performance against the eventual champions, South Africa, there's every reason to believe that England will come back stronger, hungrier, and more determined. The next rugby chapter promises to be just as exhilarating!