South Africa. New Zealand. New Zealand. South Africa. South Africa That’s now the five champions line up on the Webb Ellis Cup. South Africa claimed Saturday (Oct. 28) a record fourth Rugby World Cup after a phenomenal defensive effort.
There was just seven seconds left on the clock, and one massive scrum to play to decide the winner of the Rugby World Cup between South Africa and New Zealand.
The Springboks led by a point and needed to withdraw a last furious push from the All Blacks.
The two lines of forwards locked horns, and South Africa won the scrum, making sure it would keep the ball from the ruck, prompting referee Wayne Barnes to call an end to a nerve-racking and gritty final.
The Springboks and All Blacks collided in the Rugby World Cup final for the only the second time.
The first time was so iconic that a movie was made about it. Jonah Lomu was corralled, Joel Stransky hit the winning drop goal in extra time and Nelson Mandela wore a Springboks jersey and cap. It could only be 1995.
The fates have prevented rugby’s legendary rivalry from featuring in another final until now, and even this was unexpected.
It’s the first final in which both teams have lost a pool match. The All Blacks lost to France. The Springboks lost to Ireland. Stade de France rocked for both unsurprising results. But the old stadium was literally shaking on consecutive nights in the quarterfinals when the All Blacks stunned Ireland and the Springboks knocked out host France.
The Springboks have surprised nobody. They were big favorites before the tournament and have possibly ploughed the toughest path to the final in tournament history. Beside Ireland, they had to shake off Scotland and Tonga in the pool stage, then win one-pointers against host France and England in the knockout stage.
The final was their fifth bone-rattling match in five weeks, perhaps one reason why they have gone for the unconventional 7-1 split of forwards and backs on the bench.
Or perhaps because 7-1 worked when they first tried it, against the All Blacks just before the tournament, and gave their great rival their worst ever defeat by 35-7.
In any case, South Africa defended its title thanks to Handre Pollard's four penalties, which had given his team a 12-6 half-time lead. The Springboks did not score a point in the second-half, pushed back by unrelentless charges from the All Blacks, who desperately tried to add another try after Beauden Barrett had revived a nation's hopes they could turnaround the match.
After the final whistle at the Stade de France, there was one statistic standing out. The Springboks had managed 209 tackles — with a success rate of 81%. South Africa also won seven turnovers to just one from New Zealand.