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South Africa hold off New Zealand to win Rugby World Cup

South Africa hold off New Zealand to win Rugby World Cup

South Africa hold off New Zealand to win Rugby World Cup

South Africa became the first team to win four Men’s Rugby World Cups, retaining their title by the barest of margin, beating 14-man New Zealand 12-11 in a titanic tussle at the Stade de France. 

The battle between rugby’s two most successful nations was not always pretty but it was certainly gripping, as the All Blacks almost came from behind despite losing captain Sam Cane to a first-half red card. 

But, just as they had done in the quarter-final against hosts France, and the semi-final against England, South Africa were able to come away with a one-point win. 

Siya Kolisi now follows in the footsteps of Richie McCaw in leading his team to back-to-back world titles, after lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in Yokohama four years ago. 

But just as France and England discovered, finding a way through against the Springboks as the clock ticks away is the ultimate test in rugby. 

Handre Pollard – only called into the squad due to injury to Malcolm Marx in the group stages – kicked four penalties, while New Zealand left five points on the kicking tee. It proved the difference. 

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They were pushed to the limit by New Zealand, who seemed energised by playing with 14 men and scored the only try of the game – Beauden Barrett becoming the first man to score against South Africa in a World Cup final. 


New Zealand started both their quarter-final and semi-final slowly, and it was no different here. Flanker Shannon Frizell was sent to the sin-bin just two minutes in for a dangerous clearout on Bongi Mbonambi. 

The South Africa hooker was forced from the field, but Pollard took advantage with the early three points. 

They were able to turn the extra man into three more points, a mishit kick from Cheslin Kolbe for Damian Willemse setting up more field position and eventually an offside from the All Blacks. 

New Zealand responded with their first real attack, making ground down the left. When they got into the 22, it was South Africa’s turn to go offside, Richie Mo’unga getting the All Blacks on the board. 

Those three points were quickly cancelled out, Ardie Savea pinged at the breakdown and Pollard making no mistake from 49 metres on the angle. 


Then came the major flashpoint of the first half. Off a lost lineout – of which there had been several for the All Blacks – Cane caught Jesse Kriel high. He was sent to the sin-bin, but crucially, it was upgraded to red by the bunker, meaning the New Zealand skipper became the first man ever sent off in a World Cup final. 

When Kolisi smashed Savea backwards near his own line, Duane Vermeulen was able to get over the ball and South Africa added three more. 

At 12-3 with the All Blacks down to 14, the game appeared to be over. But this New Zealand team are nothing if not resilient.  

They worked their way into the South Africa 22 once more, a lazy run from Eben Etzebeth allowing Mo’unga to cut the deficit to six at half-time. It could have been more but for a brilliant covering tackle from Kurt-Lee Arendse on Rieko Ioane. 

South Africa could have killed the game off early in the second half. Kolisi got the ball from an up-and-under and raced clear. He had the pass available to him but chose to keep it. Mo’unga did brilliantly to haul him down before Jordie Barrett held Damian de Allende up over the line. 

Arendse then narrowly missed out in the same corner, unable to collect Willemse’s grubber through. 

New Zealand were at breaking point but just as it seemed they would crack, a high tackle from Kolisi on Savea saw the Springbok skipper sent to the sin-bin, just as his All Black counterpart had done previously. 

Unlike Cane, Kolisi departed for just ten minutes though, the bunker decision falling in his favour. 

Still, New Zealand had the momentum. They thought they had a try when Mo’unga arced around and put Aaron Smith over. He would have been a fitting scorer in his final All Black appearance, but a knock-on in the build-up saw it ruled out. 


It was temporary respite only, with New Zealand finally breaking through, Beauden Barrett finished it after his brother Jordie had put Mark Telea into space in the corner. Crucially Mo’unga could not convert and South Africa still led 12-11. 

New Zealand had 20 minutes left to find another score, and their best chance came as they opened up a huge overlap down the left. Kolbe, who had just missed a long-range drop-goal attempt, made the crucial intervention, batting the ball away as the last defender in the line. He was sent to the sin-bin, but with Willie le Roux in the backfield, there was no penalty try. 

Jordie Barrett tried to give New Zealand the lead for the first time, but pushed his effort wide from the right near halfway. 

Still they kept coming, South Africa’s defence close to breaking. But a final knock-on, from an ill-advised offload by Savea, gave the Springboks back the ball with a minute to play. Despite their scrum being under huge pressure, they were able to get the ball away and hang on to defend their crown. 

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