What we’ve learned

Five lessons from the World Cup final and third-place play-off, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.

Heyneke Meyer does not rate Rudy Paige and is not committed to transformation
When the uncapped Paige was included in the Springboks' 31-man World Cup squad ahead of Cobus Reinach, Meyer insisted it had been a close call between the two scrumhalves. 'But I looked at what Rudy can offer in northern-hemisphere conditions,' explained the Bok coach. 'He has an unbelievable kicking game, especially in wet conditions, and great service, which is what we need.' Yet when Meyer had the chance to give Paige some significant game time, during the third-place play-off against Argentina, he didn't, bringing him off the bench with just three minutes to go. Meyer said this was because Victor Matfield had been substituted so he needed the leadership of Ruan Pienaar, who had started the match at No 9, but there were other leaders on the field, including Duane Vermeulen, who could be the next Bok captain. Paige should have come off the bench when the Boks scored their second try in the 43rd minute to take a 21-3 lead. Instead, Meyer once again went the conservative route by keeping Pienaar on, and showed his lack of commitment to transformation.

The third-place play-off should be scrapped
While it was nice for the Boks to return home with something to show for their efforts, in the form of bronze medals, Friday night's game felt more like a training session than a Test match. The 55,000 crowd sensed it too, and it didn't take long for the Mexican wave to get going. The 'bronze final' may make commercial sense for World Rugby, but it makes no rugby sense to force beaten semi-finalists to play a largely meaningless game a week later, when they would rather be back home licking their wounds. Please World Rugby, scrap the third-place play-off for Japan 2019.

The All Blacks are the greatest team in Test history
If there was any doubt surrounding this, it evaporated at Twickenham on 31 October when Richie McCaw's men became the first to win back-to-back World Cup titles. Since the start of their 2011 World Cup campaign, the All Blacks have won 56 out of 61 matches for an incredible 92% success rate, with just three defeats and two draws. During this time, they have won the World Cup twice (home and away), the Rugby Championship three times and the Bledisloe Cup four times. In 2013, they became the first team in the professional era to win all of their matches in a season (14 victories), and they have now won a record 14 consecutive World Cup matches. The All Blacks have also held the World Rugby No 1 ranking since November 2009 and in July this year became the first team to be ranked No 1 for a total of 10 years, a remarkable achievement considering the rankings were only introduced in 2003.

Dan is still the man
There were times during this year's Super Rugby tournament when some wondered whether Dan Carter was still good enough to go to the World Cup later in the year. However, the 33-year-old flyhalf was always aiming to peak at the global showpiece, and he did, producing a Man of the Match performance in the final. He managed the game superbly, kicked well tactically and at goal, and slotted a crucial drop goal with 10 minutes to go to give his side a seven-point lead. With Carter's biography set to go to print just hours after the completion of the match, the man himself ensured the final chapter would be a special one.

A bold tactical substitution can pay off
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen made a big call when he decided to replace Conrad Smith, who wasn't injured and hadn't done anything wrong, with Sonny Bill Williams at half-time. And it took just a minute for it to pay off, when Williams took the ball into contact, committed two defenders and offloaded with one hand to Ma'a Nonu, who sprinted away to score his side's second try. Williams had also offloaded earlier in the buildup to that try when many others would have gone to ground with the ball. There was a lot of debate throughout 2015 about who should play No 12 for the All Blacks, Nonu or Williams, but Hansen's bold move gave them the best of both worlds in the biggest game of them all.

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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Simon Borchardt