SA Rugby magazine identifies some of the good, the bad and the ugly to take away from the Boks’ World Cup final victory over England.
The Boks are world champions. Three-time world champions. Forward domination, defence and precise backline finishing paved the way for that historic victory at the Yokohama Stadium. Throughout the tournament, the Boks relied on their physically dominant forward pack and impact off the bench to get them over the line during tight encounters. This time, the backs stepped up when it mattered most, clinically capitalising on opportunities out wide and converting those chances into points. On the biggest stage of them all, the Boks delivered more than just a one-dimensional style of rugby, with added history created through tries from Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe. As was the case during most of the Boks’ World Cup campaign, the forward pack delivered yet again during the final, with another ruthless display at the set piece and breakdown. Much of the pre-game hype revolved around Rassie Erasmus’ choice to persist with a 6-2 split on the bench, in favour of the forwards. How well that decision paid off during the knockout rounds of the World Cup. The collective defensive effort proved massive yet again for the Boks, particularly during a 26-phase sequence where England responded with their best period of pressure. But, unsurprisingly, the Bok tryline remained unbreached after relentless defence by Erasmus’ team. The Boks most certainly stuck to their structures and that which has brought them success over the last 18 months. This Springbok squad achieved something monumental on 2 November 2019, something bigger than rugby. Something the players and Bok fans can be immensely proud of for years to come.
Bad? The Boks are world champions. There was nothing bad about that win. Despite the criticism the team received for their tactical kicking gameplan throughout the tournament, the fact of the matter is that the Boks are now world champions. A title that cannot be taken away from them for the next four years. The mocking and the memes should now be forgotten. When it mattered most, each member of the Bok squad delivered a worthy performance during an unforgettable final. The win included valuable contributions across the park, from every player. That is what should now be spoken of. How through much adversity prior and during their time in Japan, this Bok squad – made up of players from diverse backgrounds – managed to pull together and once again unite a nation through the sport of rugby.
When Bongi Mbonambi and Lood de Jager both went off soon after the first quarter because of head and shoulder injuries, respectively, the stress levels of some Bok fans would have increased ever so slightly. Mbonambi subsequently failed his head injury assessment, while De Jager hobbled off with what appeared to be a dislocated shoulder. Those unfortunate incidents, however, did not deter the Boks from achieving what they had set out to do, with replacements Malcolm Marx and Franco Mostert providing considerable impact off the bench. The Boks adjusted seamlessly to the loss of two of their star forwards, and continued to overwhelm the England pack with their abrasive approach. In what has been a magnificent tournament all-around, brilliantly hosted by Japan, the post-game presentation had somewhat of a sour note when the obviously disappointed England players refused to wear their World Cup runners-up medals. Several players were seen to have immediately taken off their medals after receiving them from World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont. England’s players also failed to acknowledge the match officials when they received their participation medals, after what was a solid performance from Jerome Garces and his team. This unfortunate event did not detract from the scences that followed, however, with Siya Kolisi lifting the Web Ellis Cup to rapturous cheers from his teammates.
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