Five things we learnt from the Rugby World Cup Final | Latest Rugby News | RUGBY.com.au
2024/04/01

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Rugby World Cup 2023 will go down in history as one of the tightest and most controversial Finals in history as South Africa takes out back-to-back World Cups.

The Springboks were forced to work for it even after Sam Cane's red card, holding on for a 12-11 win.

The All Blacks were valiant in defeat but just could not overcome the numerical advantage.

So what did we learn?

1. THE RED CARD

All Blacks captain Sam Cane found himself in the history books as the first player ever red-carded in a men's World Cup Final.

Unfortunately under the current rules, Cane has little argument, collecting Kriel high as he stepped back inside with no mitigating factors.

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All Blacks fans will be asking what was the difference with Cane’s counterpart Siya Kolisi’s tackle on Ardie Savea, avoiding the second-ever red card. It’s a key reminder of the importance of lowering the body height when you go in for tackles, which saved the inspirational Springbok along with a late shift from Savea.

An incident like this will draw plenty of discussion, with calls set to grow around the introduction of a 20-minute version along with the optimal use of the TMO. It was one of several interjections by the TMO in the final, including four cards and a disallowed try.

2 PSDT POTM

Pieter-Steph du Toit delivered a performance for the ages and cemented his status as a Springboks legend.

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The flanker typified their bruising attitude in the first half as he constantly drove the All Blacks back in attack.

He made an incredible 28 tackles in a world-class defensive performance along with a couple of key breaks in attack.

Front-rowers Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe deserve special mention as well as replacement Kwagga Smith, who came up with crucial turnovers time after time to shut down the All Blacks desperate attempt late in the game.

3. FIGHT

The Kiwis deserve credit for the way they just fought and kept themselves in the game despite spending the majority of the Final down 14.

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When they needed a spark, their big players stepped up. Richie Mo’unga’s incredible effort was special even if it was brought back for a knock on whilst Beauden Barrett showed great hands to scoop up the loose ball from Mark Telea minutes later and score the lone try of the game.

Ultimately, a lack of efficiency in the red zone is what hurt them. Whilst they dominated the Springboks lineout, they twice lost the ball inside the 22 at lineout time and failed to convert their 56% possession.

They beat almost three times the tackles of South Africa, but it counted for little as the Springboks found a way to keep repelling them

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4. THE MARX BUTTERFLY EFFECT

There’s a fair argument to make that the injury to Malcolm Marx was the moment that won South Africa the World Cup.

When the Springboks opted to replace one of the best hookers in the world with a flyhalf, it was met with confused faces.

But the injection of Handre Pollard proved the difference across the knockout stages thanks to his clutch kicking. He didn’t miss a penalty kick in the final and his calmness under pressure was noticeable compared to rookie Marnie Libbok in the semi-final to inspire them to back-to-back titles.

Importantly, backrower turned hooker Deon Fourie proved he is a test-level number two, having to go 76 minutes at hooker after Bongi Mbonambi’s early injury.

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Fourie made 21 tackles and got a key turnover in the 25th minute.

5. WET WEATHER MASTERCLASS

The Springboks’ win was built off a masterclass in wet weather footy in the first half.

They bombed the daylights out of the All Blacks’ wingers, which they never really figured out how to handle. It allowed the defending champions to build pressure without the play in defence and eventually force mistakes.

The boot of Pollard did the rest to build the six point lead that was just enough to see them home.

It’s a similar strategy that won them the game against France and will define their World Cup campaign. 

They deserve to sit back and savour this win, running the gauntlet after the loss to Ireland with wins over three of the best sides in the world.

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