Siya Kolisi’s Springboks have made history after hammering England 32-12 on Saturday and claiming South Africa’s third World Cup title. JON CARDINELLI at the Yokohama Stadium reports.
Talk about power. Talk about belief. On Saturday, the Boks showcased their physical and mental steel to secure rugby’s greatest prize and restore South Africa’s reputation as a superpower.
Few outside South Africa gave them a chance. The England fans – who outnumbered their South African counterparts at the ground by 10 to one – were in a bullish mood and appeared to lend their team fresh energy with every deafening rendition of ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’.
The Boks, however, never appeared overawed by the occasion. They maintained their composure after Handre Pollard missed an early penalty attempt, throughout an assault on their line toward the end of the first half, and then in the latter stages when England tried to fight back.
They were relentless in their quest to pressure England at the set pieces and gainline. The starting pack set the tone by winning a couple of penalties at the scrum. The Boks adjusted of losing Bongi Mbonambi and Lood de Jager to injuries, and continued to hammer into England’s front row with controlled ferocity.
It would be no exaggeration to label this forwards performance one of the most abrasive and accurate of all time. While the Boks delivered some rousing physical displays in the early stages of the tournament, they patently had enough in the tank for the clash that mattered most.
Pollard showed remarkable resolve to bounce back after his early miss and sink three penalties in the first half. The Boks finished the stanza strongly to go to the break with a 12-6 lead as well as a psychological edge.
Rassie Erasmus deployed a couple of more forwards from the bench to ensure that South Africa maintained their momentum at scrum time. The decision yielded the desired reward, as the set piece won a penalty and Pollard’s ensuing kick took the Boks nine points clear of England.
That strike forced England to chase the game. They edged closer, via the boot of Owen Farrell, but never managed to get into a position where they could overtake the Boks and seize control of the contest.
The Bok attack finally clicked in the 67th minute to produce the game’s first try. Makazole Mapimpi’s kick was well chased by Lukhanyo Am. The centre showed terrific awareness to find the winger with a pop pass. As Mapimpi dotted down the South Africans in the stands started to find their voice.
The Boks had one hand on the trophy. Six minutes later, they placed a second hand on the cup when Cheslin Kolbe ran through a weak tackle attempt by Farrell to score.
Records are meant to be broken. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said it himself six weeks ago after this side beat the Boks in a pool match staged at this very venue.
Hansen said that the Boks were still in with a shout of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup. He praised the Bok pack as well as the team’s kicking game and said that the South Africans weren’t far away from getting it right.
The Boks fired on Saturday to set up a a monumental victory for South African rugby. In doing so, they became the first team in history to win the tournament after losing a pool match and the first side to win the Rugby Championship in the same year as well.
The game also produced another important first in the aftermath when Kolisi, South Africa’s first black captain, collected the trophy. The crowd appeared to chant as one when the flank stepped up to the podium and raised the Webb Ellis Cup into the cool Yokohama night sky.
England – Penalties: Owen Farrell (4).
Springboks – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Cheslin Kolbe. Conversions: Handre Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (6).
England – 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Dan Cole, 19 George Kruis, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Jonathan Joseph.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Francois Louw, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn.