Once the All Blacks lost captain Sam Cane to a red card in the World Cup final, they were never going to be able to stop the brutal Springboks, writes MARK KEOHANE.
Writing for TimesLIVE, Keohane applauds the outstanding performances of Boks such as Handre Pollard and Pieter-Steph du Toit as the South Africans defended the Webb Ellis Cup by defeating the All Blacks in Paris on Saturday.
Keohane highlights Pollard’s impeccable goal-kicking, which played a significant role in the Boks’ 12-11 victory, but raises concerns over Cane’s yellow card, upgraded to a red card for a head tackle on Jesse Kriel, which was not referred for a HIA test.
He emphasises that the Kiwis were at a numerical disadvantage, playing 14 on 15 for a substantial part of the match against the relentless Boks, and suggests that referee Wayne Barnes’ decisions favoured the defending champions more on the night.
The Boks’ physicality, especially in the opening hour, made a significant impact on the game, and Keohane commends their relentless tackling and highlights the key moments, including Du Toit’s impressive performance and Kwagga Smith’s crucial turnovers.
“Less than a point has separated these two teams since 2018, but 14 can’t play 15. These All Blacks would do well to compete with the Boks when 15 plays 15,” he writes.
“Against a lesser opponent, they may still have found something magical, but against these mongrels from South Africa, it needed them to have a player more and a charitable referee. They had neither.
“The All Blacks, the poets of world rugby, just were not allowed to play. The Boks were brutal in everything, tackle after tackle and the big hits did not come bigger than from Du Toit.”