South Africa clinched a record fourth Rugby World Cup title by doing just enough to deny 14-man New Zealand and retain their crown in a helter-skelter final in Paris. The Springboks seemed to have control when, with Handre Pollard’s dead-eyed goal-kicking having already given them a 9-3 lead, Sam Cane caught Jesse Kriel high in the 27th minute. The New Zealand captain was shown a red card on review, and another Pollard penalty left the All Blacks a man down, nine points behind, and in deep trouble.
However, New Zealand rallied, rode their luck, and dragged themselves back into the game. Richie Mo’unga kicked a penalty before the break, and Beauden Barrett scooped up a loose ball and slid in after the interval to cut South Africa’s lead to 12-11. Both teams pushed for a decisive score in an enthralling, lactic-drenched final quarter, but neither found one. Jordie Barrett missed a long-range 73rd-minute penalty, and the Springboks clung on for a third successive one-point victory in the knockout stages.
Rugby World Cup Final Scores:
- New Zealand: (6) 11
- Tries: B. Barrett
- Pens: Mo’unga 2
- South Africa: (12) 12
- Pens: Pollard 4
Captain Siya Kolisi clutched his head in disbelief as he danced off the bench and towards his teammates on the final whistle. His side is the first team to win the tournament back-to-back away from home, a statistic Leinster-bound coach Jacques Nienaber underlined in the build-up. They are now the undeniable dominant force in World Cup history. This latest victory means the Springboks have won half of the eight tournaments they have taken part in. South Africa was absent from the first two editions because of the sporting exile imposed by the rest of the world in reaction to the country’s apartheid government.
This marked South Africa’s third consecutive one-point win in finals, following their earlier victory over New Zealand in the 1995 tournament.
The Springboks’ tenacity and composure ultimately secured their place in history as the first team to claim four Rugby World Cup titles.
New Zealand’s hopes took a severe hit when Sam Cane was shown a red card for a high tackle, reducing the All Blacks to 14 men just half an hour into the game.
Despite the early loss of hooker Bongi Mbonambi to a knee injury in the third minute, the Springboks displayed their mettle in a tense contest.
Jordie Barrett had the opportunity to secure a victory for New Zealand with a late penalty attempt, following Cheslin Kolbe’s sin-binning for a deliberate knock-on. However, the pressure-laden attempt went wide, leaving South Africa to savor their hard-fought victory, maintaining their unbeaten record in Rugby World Cup finals.