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All Blacks great Zinzan Brooke warns 'leggy' South Africa ahead of World Cup final

By Chris Jones
Siya Kolisi of South Africa looks on during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between England and South Africa at Stade de France on October 21, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Images)

All Black great Zinzan Brooke has warned the Springboks they could be torn apart in the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday by an Ardie Savea inspired New Zealand team at the Stade de France.


Central to the All Blacks challenge will be Savea, as the most naturally gifted All Blacks No8 since Brooke, a unique player who entered rugby folklore with a 47m drop goal against England at the 1995 tournament.

With Savea driving New Zealand towards a fourth title, Brooke told RugbyPass: “South Africa have come the hard way (into the final) and will have to buck up their ideas and actually deliver or else the All Blacks will open them up and expose the Springboks deficiencies we saw in the semi-final against England.”

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Savea has won more caps and scored more tries than his illustrious predecessor in the No8 jersey but as Brooke joked “he hasn’t delivered the full Monty yet!”. Given the way Savea has been playing in the World Cup it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he suddenly launched a drop goal between the posts against South Africa and then did it again to prove it wasn’t a fluke.

It has been a measure of Savea’s excellence that even when the doubters were circling the All Blacks in the lead up to the World Cup, his performances stood out making him a much needed source of inspiration in times of great need. In France, he has somehow reached an even higher level of individual brilliance with his impact in the quarter-final win over Ireland simply stunning. One minute he was clearing the ball from the base of a ruck on the All Blacks line like a scrum-half and the next he was diving in to score a try that required the balletic ability of an international wing.


In between Savea delivered the intensely physical ball carrying that has always made him such a fan favourite and it is this remarkable skills set that has Brooke purring as he delivers his verdict on the current All Blacks No8. Brooke told RugbyPass: “What Ardie possesses is power and an explosive ability to make ground with little runs which are vitally important. The three or four metres he makes puts the team on the front foot and he has a wonderful offloading ability. Ardie achieves that more than most and his mobility is fantastic. I don’t know his playing weight, but I was around 116-118kgs in the sun and when we went to the Northern Hemisphere you put two or three kilos on so on average it was 117kgs. What is Ardie? 110kgs?”

Savea is actually 100kgs which is remarkable given the impact he makes against bigger opponents and it is his footballing skills allied to clever footwork that allows the 80-cap forward to exploit weaknesses he identifies in the defensive line. “What also sets Ardie apart is that as a ball carrier he really fights to stay on his feet while others go to ground too soon,” added Brooke. “With his beautiful hands it means he can offload to a support runner even if he is under intense pressure. He has adapted incredibly well moving from No6 to No8 and he has the skills to play No7 as well.”


As a reference point for the final, Brooke highlights the quality of the rugby the All Blacks delivered to knock Ireland, the No1 ranked team in the world, out of the quarter-finals 28-24. He explained: “That win over Ireland – I don’t think I have ever seen an All Blacks side play that well. The clinical precision (to go 13-0 up) gave me the confidence they would do the job and the whole 23 needed a pat on the back for that performance.”

Brooke has been enjoying the impact Courtney Lawes has been making for England and describes the Northampton blind side as “magnificent”, particularly in the agonising one point loss to South Africa in semi-final. The way England took the game to South Africa has given the All Blacks various options in Saturday’s final, particularly with Savea equipped to be just as aggressive and disruptive for the Springboks back row.

England’s cause was undermined by scrum problems once their first choice props Joe Marler and Dan Cole were replaced and while Brooke acknowledges the Springboks scrum power he is confident the All Blacks have the power and front row strength in depth to avoid handing the opposition a significant advantage in the second-half.

With the Springboks losing 13-8 to Ireland in the pool stage and then having to dig deep to beat France (29-28) and England (16-15) with the boot of Handre Pollard, the defending champions could be “leggy” heading into the final. They have been trying to limit the game time of key players such as captain Siya Kolisi and brought off lock Eben Etzebeth early against England in the semi-final. The All Blacks, in contrast, hammered Argentina 44-6 to reach the final.


“The Springboks were ‘lost’ (against England) and the confidence has to be in the All Blacks camp,” said Brooke. “Can South Africa produce their best? Yes, but you have to create that doubt, get down there, take the points and create pressure. There was a chance for England and their loose forwards were brilliant. Ardie, like Courtney Lawes, has been lifting everyone with his performances.

“My gut is telling me the All Blacks will have confidence going into the final. Coming into the tournament, I had doubts because I didn’t see the consistency from the All Blacks but if I had seen them deliver the kind of rugby we saw in the Ireland quarter-final I would have said ‘these All Blacks mean business.’ They will keep it simple against the Springboks, be accurate and play at pace and with passion.”


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DCS125 266 days ago

Bokke people are as obnoxious as the Irish supporters.

I wish NZ all the best 👌

Michael 267 days ago

Zinzan Brooke lost all credibility when he became an antivaxxer Covid denier.

Sheldon 267 days ago

I'm hoping for a great battle between 2 great teams. No matter the opinion of yesterday's hero's or today's know it all's. May the best team walk away with the Cup 🏆

Phil 267 days ago

JL on this thread is hilarious. I conclude he is a Jaapie. “Sam Kane puts Richie Mccaw to shame” 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 O’Mahoney would disagree.

Scud 267 days ago

Boks will send the All Blacks back to the middle of nowhere , where they belong!!!

David 267 days ago

New Zealand have come the hard way over the past 14 months and will have to buck up their ideas and actually deliver or else the Springboks will open them up and expose the All Blacks deficiencies we saw in England at Twickenham. There, I fixed it for you brother Brookes.

Whanui 268 days ago

The ABs got to win to keep SAfrica winning a 4th title.

corlina 268 days ago

Ladies and Gentleman

Let me introduce to you the world cup winner ..
They won their second world cup in France , their second world cup final against NZL, Their second successive final, their fourth world cup title …They are the best rugby team that ever lived on this planet …
Let me introduce to you the ….SPRINGBOKS of that genius …Rassie Erasmus

Snash 268 days ago

Wow i thought Zinzan knew the game or doesn't appreciate how much it has changed or most likely i guess is he is a patriot.

strachan 268 days ago

It's time to do the talking on the field. Now we are ONE go Boks

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Shaylen 3 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

32 Go to comments
Jon 9 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Ioane is going to be more than good enough to lock up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

32 Go to comments
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