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THE GREATEST! Boks beat All Blacks in instant classic to claim record FOURTH RWC in controversial, dramatic final

28th October, 2023
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28th October, 2023
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STADE DE FRANCE – Twenty-eight years between drinks and drama was always on the cards between these two great foes. Little did we know just how much.

But just like that famous win at Ellis Park where Nelson Mandela handed over the William Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar, it was the Springboks who once again prevailed 12-11 in an instant classic.

Unlike the blue skies that greeted Johannesburg and the Boeing 747 plane that sent shivers down the spines of everyone in attendance in 1995, rain and dampness poured down on the Stade de France.

Yet, nothing was going to dampen this evening as 80,065 fans poured in.

South Africa's Jean Kleyn (left) and Pieter-Steph Du Toit celebrate victory after the final whistle following the Rugby World Cup 2023 final match at the Stade de France in Paris, France. Picture date: Saturday October 28, 2023. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

South Africa’s Jean Kleyn (left) and Pieter-Steph du Toit celebrate their World Cup win on Saturday October 28. (Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

In a match of controversy, where cards of yellow and red were handed out quicker than a game of Uno, thundering shots both legal and illegal were put on by rugby’s two greatest sides.

Sam Cane – the All Blacks captain – was forced to watch the match from the sidelines for 53 minutes after having his yellow card for a high shot on Jesse Kriel upgraded to red. His opposite in the number seven jersey, Siya Kolisi, was later shown a yellow card for a high shot on Ardie Savea, but returned.

Cheslin Kolbe – the magnificent winger who sealed their World Cup triumph four years earlier against England – meanwhile couldn’t bare to watch from the sidelines after being shown a yellow card for a deliberate knockdown in the 73rd minute.

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It was that kind of evening, where the margins were tiny and the outcomes almighty.

“There are no ways I can explain it,” Kolisi said.

“I want to give credit to the All Blacks. They took us to the end, they took us to a dark place. It shows what kind of team they are, to fight with a man down from early in the game. They put us under so much pressure.

“Credit to my boys too for the fight. I am just grateful we could pull it off.”

Speaking of mighty, Pieter-Steph du Toit – the 2019 World Rugby player of the year – played his best match in four years as he spearheaded the Springboks’ physical onslaught. The back-rower made 28 tackles, each as bone-crunching as the next.

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By claiming their third one-point knockout victory in a row, the Springboks moved into uncharted territory by leapfrogging the All Blacks by sealing their fourth World Cup. It was the second straight tournament the Springboks won in France, having beaten England at the same venue in 2007.

Siya Kolisi lifts The Webb Ellis Cup following their Rugby World Cup win over the Springboks at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

A missed Richie Mo’unga conversion following Beauden Barrett’s 58th minute try – the only five-pointer of the match – ultimately proved the difference, as Handre Pollard’s four three-pointers led the Springboks to World Cup glory.

The All Blacks had their chances, but their usual safe handling, a feature throughout the World Cup after their first-up loss to France, evaded them against the Springboks’ blitz defence in the wet conditions.

All night the All Blacks’ timing was off and the forced ball from Savea out wide just as the men in black saw space and looked to open up the Springboks in the 80th minute proved to be killer blow.

Sam Whitelock reacts following the All Blacks’ 12-11 World Cup loss to the Springboks at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Wayne Barnes, who was booed relentlessly, called a scrum reset as the seconds ticked by.

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Moments later, their hearts sunk as the Springboks managed to win the scrum and then hang onto the ball.

The victory was the perfect sign-off for the Springboks’ management, with director of rugby Rassie Erasmus set to follow head coach Jacques Nienaber out.

The duo will go down as the greatest coaching duo in rugby history, having led the Springboks to back-to-back World Cup triumphs.

“We came a long way with the players. We always planned for this World Cup, since 2018,” Nienaber said.

“Massive credit to our fans. They were special from South Africa, 62 million people, the videos we had to play from them. It was unbelievable.”

Veteran back-rower Duane Vermeulen will also call time on his illustrious career.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster’s tenure in charge has also come to an end, with Scott Robertson to take over following a bumpy four years in charge.

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Robertson will have an almighty task on his hand, with multiple generational players including Dane Coles, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Aaron Smith to call time on their international careers. Others like Ardie Savea, Mo’unga, Beauden Barrett and Shannon Frizell will also head to Japan.

While Foster didn’t want to take anything away from the Springboks’ win, he said the game had some issues to sort out regarding the officiating.

“I’m proud of our guys, to go down to that red card so early and fight our way back and give ourselves a chance is pretty special,” the departing All Blacks coach said.

“I don’t think it went wrong in any clear [place on the pitch], it was a real arm wrestle, both teams have their moment, incredibly proud of the way we fought and to get within a whisker of pulling it off is heart-breaking.

Ian Foster was left frustrated at the TMO following the All Blacks’ 12-11 loss to the Springboks at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

“This group is very proud to be All Blacks, very proud to play for their country and have worked incredibly hard to get here.

“While I am so proud of what we did and how we worked we have to give it to South Africa, they are a quality team. They have had a few close victories in this tournament and are a different class. It’s special for them but it equally hurts for us. I can’t ask for much more than we did, we couldn’t put more out on the park.”

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Controversy was on display from the outset, as Frizell was shown a yellow card for an illegal cleanout on Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi. The incident saw the hooker, who was cleared earlier in the week by World Rugby following an alleged racial slur on England back-rower Tom Curry, replaced by Deon Fourie in the third minute.

The penalty allowed Pollard to step up and bang over three points.

The All Blacks were on the backfoot much of the opening quarter and, after Ethan de Groot was pinged for not rolling away, the Springboks moved further ahead after 12 minutes.

A wicked bounce following a lovely Jordie Barrett chip kick denied Savea a try soon after. But the All Blacks were on the scoreboard via Mo’unga moments later as Barnes was playing advantage.

But the Springboks restored their six-point lead soon after as Savea was pinged for not releasing. Barnes later apologised, with the No.8 having a split-second separation.

The Springboks’ rush defence caused the All Blacks problems all evening, as Damian de Allende and Kriel forced their opponents into errors. Will Jordan, the impressive young outside back who scored eight tries, had a difficult night and was replaced midway through the second half.

The biggest error was around the corner, as Kriel stepped back into the defence and Cane failed to drop his body height and clocked the centre in the jaw. He didn’t return.

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Sam Cane of New Zealand walks past the The Webb Ellis Cup following the Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Ramos - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

All Blacks captain Sam Cane walks past the The Webb Ellis Cup following their World Cup Final defeat to the Springboks. (Photo by David Ramos – World Rugby via Getty Images)

The Springboks took a 12-3 lead after 34 minutes when the All Blacks once again failed to release on their goal line. Pollard licked his lips and said ‘thanks’.

The All Blacks managed to cut the deficit to 12-6 after 37 minutes when Eben Etzebeth was caught offside and denied his opponents some quick ball.

Foster’s men breathed a sigh of relief when Kolisi blew a chance out wide when he tucked the ball under his arms and went himself after Beauden Barrett failed to collect a high ball in the 42nd minute.

Minutes later and Kolisi was off, as he cannoned into Savea. He would later return, much to the anger of the New Zealanders in the crowd who were calling for justice.

Sensing an opportunity to strike against 14 men, the All Blacks kicked for the corner on a couple occasions out wide. It came back to haunt them, as their usually silky and composed skill sets failed them.

That much was true when the TMO intervened after Smith thought he had a try in his final Test, but an error at the lineout cancelled out the five-pointer.

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Eventually the All Blacks did have a try, as Mark Telea, the All Blacks’ best and biggest attacking threat all night, managed to get on the outside and draw in two defenders before offloading to Beauden Barrett. But Mo’unga missed the conversion to leave them trailing by a point.

That lone point would prove the difference, as the Springboks celebrated a remarkable victory by a remarkable side.

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