Paris, Wellington, Cape Town (23/10 – 33)
History is arising on the horizon, as New Zealand and South Africa, two ancient foes, clash in the 2023 Rugby World Cup Final on Saturday 28 October. New Zealand smartly swept Argentina aside, 44-6, in the first semifinal on 20 October. After their embarrassing defeat 13-27 at the hands of France in the first pool match, The All Blacks are now on a fantastic run.
Will Jordan and Co. destroyed Namibia 71-3, Italy 96-17, and Uruguay 73-0 in the remaining pool matches to the knock-out phase. Ian Foster’s team overcame the world number one Ireland 28-24, smacking them with a scintillating performance in the quarterfinals before dismantling Argentina in the last four. “We came here wanting to be in the final and then we obviously want to go and win it,” said Foster, who will leave his job after the World Cup.
New Zealand are under immense pressure after an underwhelming run of form last year. But, The All Blacks are now aiming to become only the second side after South Africa to win the World Cup after losing a pool match.
South Africa are a worthy adversary for New Zealand in the final. The Springbok definitely have a champion-seeking mentality.
The defending champion triumphed over Scotland 18-3 and Romania 76-0 in the first two pool games. They responded to an 8-13 loss to Ireland with a 49-18 win over Tonga in the last pool match. And then came the exhibition of South Africa’s mental power in the first two knock-out matches. They won those two matches by the narrowest of margins.
In the quarter-final, in a battle that could well turn out to be the best match in the 2023 Rugby World Cup, The Springboks defeated the world number two – and host – France, in a thrilling 29-28. In the semifinal, Jacques Nienaber’s team rallied to win 16-15 over England.
“One has to commend the strength of this team for the way they find a way to get a result,” said Nienaber. “It took us 70 minutes to get a foothold in the match, and the players refused to give up and fought until the end. I’m very proud of them for that.”
Now a historical final awaits New Zealand and South Africa. Only one of them will seize a record fourth World Cup title. This match is a rerun of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, also the first meeting for The All Blacks and The Springbok in The World Cup.
South Africa won 15-12 in the 1995 final. The two teams went on to meet – four more times – in the World Cup. New Zealand had the upper hand in the last three meeting in the World Cup, with a 29-9 win in the 2003 quarterfinal, 20-18 in the 2015 semifinal, and 23-13 in the 2019 pool stage. But at the last meeting in the World Cup warm-up match on 25 August 2023, South Africa knocked them sideways with a 35-7.
Overall, New Zealand collected 62 wins in their 105 meetings with South Africa. The Springbok won 39 times and 4 other matches ended in a draw. After their narrow wins in the quarterfinal and semifinal, South Africa know that their work is cut out for them in the effort to prepare themselves.
“New Zealand are really playing an explosive game, punishing teams from all over the park,” said The Springbok’s fly-half, Handre Pollard. “We’ll have to do homework for that.”
On the other hand, The All Blacks are aiming for another defensive masterclass. “History shows often a team that is defensively one of the best will end up winning the World Cup,” New Zealand captain Sam Cane confidently stated. “There are a few guys in our team who are incredibly passionate about it. We have a system we really believe in.”