The Springboks are back-to-back world champions not because they were the most talented team in France, but because they tackled like their lives depended on it, writes MARK KEOHANE.
Writing for TimesLIVE, Keohane argues that winning a quarter-final, semi-final, and final by just one point was about the Boks’ determination to make that crucial tackle, emphasising the importance of scramble defence in rugby.
While France, England, and New Zealand all had opportunities to beat the Boks, he suggests that the South Africans emerged victorious due to their physical prowess and strategic thinking.
“Scramble on Google: ‘Make one’s way quickly or awkwardly up a steep gradient or rough ground by using one’s hand as well as one’s feet.’ Meet the Springboks, champions of the rugby world in 2019 and 2023 because they used their hands and feet,” Keohane writes.
“They also used their minds, as much as they did their natural physically imposing gifts.”
Keohane credits the selections made by coaches Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber, highlighting the value of having the right players in the squad rather than necessarily the best personnel.
“Bongi Mbonambi had carried the hooker responsibility all tournament when Malcolm Marx got injured at training. He lasted three minutes in the final and a 37-year-old flanker, Deon Fourie, played hooker and captained South Africa in the last few minutes of a final. Wow,” he writes.
The fine margins in the decider against the All Blacks, such as Richie Mo’unga and Jordie Barrett’s missed goal-kicks, made the difference, and Keohane highlights that it’s these crucial moments that decide the outcome of knockout matches.
“The Bokke are champions of the world because they were one point richer on the final whistle, and they are champions because the Kiwis missed and they did not,” he writes.