It’s not beautiful rugby but northern-hemisphere rivals must learn lessons to stop the Springboks

Love them or loathe them, you have to admire the Boks.

It’s not beautiful rugby but northern-hemisphere rivals must learn lessons to stop the Springboks
Siya Kolisi leads the celebrations as the Boks arrive home with the Webb Ellis Cup
Siya Kolisi leads the celebrations as the Boks arrive home(Picture: Reuters)

Ever since the 1995 World Cup and an emotional triumph in a tournament they hosted that had a huge impact on their country, South Africa have had a love affair with the Webb Ellis Cup.

A nation in turmoil unites for a day under one flag and believes this team can write some wrongs. The power of that fills the minds of the players taking the field, the knowledge they too carry the pressures and hope of their people seems to ignite the fire and drive them forward.

No other side have lifted four World Cups or won every final they have ever contested.

There is no game with more jeopardy and pressure than the World Cup final and this one did not disappoint. With the physicality and desperation levels turned up to the max, it turned out to be a classic, albeit based more on the turbulent nature of the contest rather than the quality of the rugby.

A tournament that began with northern hemisphere teams tipped to break New Zealand and South Africa’s hold over the competition ended with their stranglehold very much intact, with one of these two nations having triumphed every time since England’s victory in 2003.

Even though they had both been beaten during the tournament, the resilience shown by their players is impressive. The individual and collective ability to recover from World Cup defeat puts a huge amount of strain on a camp.

Dejected All Blacks skipper Sam Cane walks past the Webb Ellis Cup
Dejected All Blacks skipper Sam Cane walks past the Webb Ellis Cup (Picture: Getty)

The knowledge you are not the best team in the competition and that all the preparation pre-tournament was not quite enough is a tough spot from which to recover.

But they did and it is this kind of mentality teams like Ireland, France and England must somehow replicate.

The stats from the final are incredible and show the determination of both sides. South Africa were twice reduced to 14 men and losing their only recognised hooker would have normally had a team scrambling to find a way to win.

But that first-half red card for Sam Cane – and to be clear the decision was correct even if the time the All Blacks captain had to drop his height was minimal – meant it was New Zealand who were forced onto the back foot.

Yet, a man down, they too produced a monumental effort. South Africa made 209 tackles compared to New Zealand’s 98 and the All Blacks dominated possession and territory.

This also indicates how South Africa are set up. They are a team who do not play the beautiful game. They want to dominate you physically while forcing you to chase the match.

The question they ask is simple: have you got the confidence to deal with the brutally aggressive rush defence led by Pieter-Steph Du Toit and risk turning the ball over? New Zealand, of course, answered that emphatically even without Cane. But much like England in the semi-final, it was not enough.

Scoring the first try against South Africa in a final and having another chalked off for an earlier knock-on showed New Zealand’s brilliance.

They also had two shots at goal to clamber ahead but it was not to be for a team who also carry the weight of a nation as South Africa held on.

Having lifted the trophy for the first time in 1995 and now with four wins in total, the Springboks have been the most dominant World Cup team over the past 30 years. Love them or loathe them, you have to admire a side that can somehow always find a way to win.

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