The Springboks are bracing for a high-scoring end-to-end World Cup finale against old rivals the All Blacks, following a gritty semi-final victory over England.
A late penalty from Handre Pollard saw the Springboks claim a one-point win in wet and rainy conditions which caused Saturday night’s semi-final to be dominated by the set-piece battle.
However, the Boks are expecting a very different kind of contest in the World Cup final against New Zealand, after the All Blacks strolled to a 44-6 victory over Argentina on Friday night.
The most recent clash between the current top two-ranked teams in the world saw South Africa rout the All Blacks to earn a record 35-7 win in their final warm-up match before the tournament in France. Prior to that, the All Blacks claimed a 35-20 home victory in the second round of the truncated Rugby Championship, built on a 20-3 half-time lead.
The last three matches between the two sides have seen the winning side score 35 points.
“It’s going to be tight,” Bok coach Nienaber said. “They [the All Blacks] are in excellent form.
“If you look at their last few games, [if] you’re not going to get close to 30-35 points, you won’t be in the mix.”
The Springboks last faced New Zealand at a World Cup in their 2019 opener in Yokohama, a game which the All Blacks won 23-13 to set South Africa on the path of becoming the first team to lose their opening fixture and go on to win the tournament.
Bruising flank Pieter-Steph du Toit knows the Boks are going to have to reset quickly after their semi-final triumph, to stand a chance of retaining the Webb Ellis Cup.
“The final is a different ball game,” Du Toit said. “You’re playing against a top-quality side in New Zealand, so of course anything can happen there as well.
“We have to make sure we prepare well. We need to be better at taking opportunities and play the conditions that are there as well.”
Cheslin Kolbe had very few opportunities to open the game up against England, spending most of the game chasing kicks, but said the semi-finals showed the Boks have to raise their game to beat their rivals.
“They played a brilliant game yesterday, and they’re a quality team all-round,” Kolbe said.
“We know it’s going to be physical, so we’ll recover as well as we can tonight, shift our focus on Monday and come [out] hitting next week.”
Saturday will be the first time that the Springboks and All Blacks in a World Cup final since South Africa won the tournament on home soil in 1995.
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