It’s time for the ultimate clash on the rugby field! The Rugby World Cup Final is just around the corner, and this year’s showdown promises to be nothing short of legendary. In a battle that spans over a century, South Africa and New Zealand, two titans of the sport, will once again go head-to-head in a match that will determine who will claim the Webb Ellis Cup for a record fourth time.
The Long-Standing Rivalry
The rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand is steeped in history and tradition. Former Springbok captain and 2007 World Cup winner, John Smit, once said, “You debut twice for the Springboks. Your first debut is your first game for South Africa. Your second debut is your first game against the All Blacks.” This statement perfectly encapsulates the intensity and significance of facing the mighty All Blacks.
Rare World Cup Clashes
While the rivalry between these two powerhouses has spanned 105 Tests and 102 years, World Cup clashes between them have been relatively rare. The upcoming final will mark the sixth time they have met at the World Cup, with only the second occasion where they will contest the final. The previous encounters saw New Zealand emerge as victors on three occasions, while the Springboks triumphed twice.
|1995||South Africa 15 – 12 New Zealand|
|1999||South Africa 22 – 18 New Zealand|
|2003||New Zealand 29 – 9 South Africa|
|2015||New Zealand 20 – 18 South Africa|
|2019||New Zealand 23 – 13 South Africa|
Physical Freshness vs. Battle-Tested Resolve
As the final approaches, both teams find themselves in different states. The All Blacks will enter the match physically fresher, having had an extra day to prepare and a less demanding semifinal. Their 44-6 victory over Argentina was a far cry from the intense battles the Springboks endured against France and England in the quarterfinals and semifinals. These draining performances, both physically and mentally, have left the Boks with scars that they must overcome.
Former Springbok captain John Smit acknowledges the challenges the team faces, stating, “We [South Africans] are quite resilient… Our mentality is to always knuckle down and rise up against adversity and overcome.” This resilience has been a defining characteristic of the Springbok spirit throughout history, and it will undoubtedly play a crucial role in their quest for victory.
A Boost of Motivation
Playing against the All Blacks provides the Springboks with an extra boost of motivation. The opportunity to face their arch-rivals brings out a deep-seated determination in the South African players. Schalk Burger, a legendary Springbok flank, recalls the excitement of beating the All Blacks in 1998, saying, “All you want as a youngster growing up in South Africa is a chance to play against the All Blacks… it was always a tough assignment.”
While the All Blacks have dominated the overall statistics of this rivalry, with 62 wins compared to the Springboks’ 39, there is no team that has a better winning percentage against New Zealand than South Africa. The average scoreline of their encounters stands at 20-16 in favor of the All Blacks, highlighting the closely contested battles they have fought over the years.
The Rassie Erasmus-Jacques Nienaber Era
In the Rassie Erasmus-Jacques Nienaber era, the gap has closed even further. Out of the ten matches played between these two powerhouses, New Zealand has secured five wins, while the Springboks have claimed four victories, with one match ending in a draw. Four of these encounters were decided by a margin of three points or less, showcasing the fierce competition between the two sides.
Since 2018, the Springboks have scored 247 points against New Zealand’s 240, emphasizing the razor-thin margin that separates these two rugby giants. As the World Cup final approaches, it is evident that there is very little to choose between these formidable teams.
The Party Crashers
The Springboks may be seen as the party crashers in this World Cup, having ended France’s journey with a nail-biting 29-28 quarterfinal win. However, there could not be a more fitting final than the one we are about to witness. The two best sides in Test rugby, with a rich history at the World Cup, will compete for the ultimate prize. This will be the first time in the professional era that South Africa and New Zealand face each other in a World Cup final.
The Springboks have had to dig deep and overcome various challenges throughout the tournament. In addition to facing all the top-ranked teams (except New Zealand) and their recent battles with France and England, they have also had to navigate through controversies surrounding allegations of racial slurs. However, adversity only fuels their determination.
A New Chapter Awaits
As the Rugby World Cup Final approaches, the Springboks must tap into a new well of resolve. Their journey has tested their physical and mental limits, but they have proven time and time again that they possess the resilience and tenacity to overcome any obstacle. The unity within the team, both on and off the field, has been a source of strength and inspiration.
This historic clash between South Africa and New Zealand promises to be another nail-biting encounter. With their eyes set on claiming the Webb Ellis Cup for a record fourth time, the Springboks will leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of victory. As the world watches in anticipation, the stage is set for an epic showdown that will undoubtedly add another chapter to the greatest rivalry in rugby history!