South Africa’s Springboks have taken their place on the throne of rugby gods after delivering a record fourth World Cup title to their Rainbow Nation.
After winning the Rugby World Cup for the third time in 2019, the defending champions have gone back-to-back after beating New Zealand’s All Blacks 12-11 at Stade de France in last Saturday’s World Cup final.
The All Blacks played most of the Test with 14 men after a red card to captain Sam Cane and while the New Zealanders had opportunities to snatch the crown, it wasn’t to be.
The Springboks are the 2023 Rugby World Cup champions.
With rain trickling down from the heavens at Stade de France, both teams grouped into their own huddles mere moments before the opening whistle.
This was it. For both the Springboks and All Blacks, this was their opportunity to immortalize themselves into Rugby World Cup history as champions.
But disaster struck almost immediately for the All Blacks. Shannon Frizell was sent to the sin bin after just two-and-a-half minutes of play.
An anxious eight minutes followed as the incident went under review, and while the flanker avoided an unimaginable red card, it didn’t aid the All Blacks’ cause for a fourth crown.
Springboks playmaker Handre Pollard converted two penalties as the defending World Cup champions raced out a hard-fought six-nil lead before Frizell returned to the field.
The All Blacks had their backs against the ropes. South Africa were playing with passion, skill and confidence as the New Zealanders failed to show much during the first 15 minutes.
But a team like the All Blacks is more than capable of deploying a damaging counter-punch, and they came within inches of doing just that.
Playing with an advantage, a clever Jordie Barrett chip-kick found the deck inside the Springboks’ 22, and it also paid off as backrower Ardie Savea fought after the ball in desperation. But the opportunity to score alluded the Player of the Year nominee – but only just.
Back to the advantage, the All Blacks as flyhalf Richie Mo’unga knocked over the All Blacks’ first shot at goal for the night.
Chants of ‘All Blacks, All Blacks, All Blacks’ erupted in a pocket of the stadium as the New Zealanders set-up to receive the kick-off, but the Boks were up for the fight once again.
Moments after turning over the ball, referee Wayne Barnes awarded another penalty in the Springboks’ favour. Pollard added another three to their lead from long-range.
The next eight minutes were far from uneventful, but no points were scored. New Zealand threw everything at the Boks but the 2019 champions stood firm in defence.
But then the match took another turn. All Blacks captain Sam Cane was sent to the sin bin under review, and that incident was later upgraded to a red card.
It was the first red card in men’s Rugby World Cup final history.
The clock continued to tick by. Tick, tock, tick, tock – but no points were scored. But the All Blacks mounted an impressive-looking counter-attack that ended up having a big say on the Test.
Wing Cheslin Kolbe was sent to the sin bin for knocking the ball down and the All Blacks were awarded a penalty. Jordie Barrett lined up a shot at goal.
But he missed.
The Springboks held on for that little bit longer. Only five minutes remained.
Eventually, It came down to one scrum. The Springboks held on and the Springboks, rightfully, celebrated in an incredible state of euphoria.
For the first time ever, the Springboks had gone back-to-back.
And with that, the 2023 Rugby World Cup was over. At the end of the tournament’s 48th Test, South Africa have beaten New Zealand in a thrilling final at Stade de France.
The world was in union.