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South Africa player ratings vs England

By Liam Heagney
Herschel Jantjies (second left) and Eben Etzebeth (first right) celebrate South Africa's win (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

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What a wonderful day in the life of the Rainbow Nation, their third World Cup triumph and a fully deserved one at that as they outmuscled England 32-12 in Yokohama.


Attempting to become the first team to collect the trophy having lost a match en route to the final, Rassie Erasmus’ players were collectively excellent in how they set about shredding the favouritism foisted on England in the wake of their semi-final demolition of New Zealand.

They were brutally combative in the tight, mostly pulverising the England scrum dented by Kyle Sinckler’s concussion-enforced departure and also benefiting from a lack of crispness surrounding the opposition’s passing.  

The claustrophobic Boks were ahead on 10 minutes and were only ever pegged back level twice – for three and five-minute spells in a first half that ended with them 12-6 ahead despite the double injury blow that resulted in the early departures of forwards Lood de Jager and Mbongeni Mbonambi.

It was in the minutes approaching the hour when the result was further shaped. Instead of England closing to within three points after Handre Pollard was penalised for holding on, Owen Farrell blipped with his kick off the tee and then could only watch in anguish as Pollard had the accuracy just minutes later down the other end to stretch the margin to nine. 

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England did quickly get three points back, but that was the last shot they fired as South Africa, a team much criticised for its narrow, kick-heavy style of play, pounced for result-defining tries from wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe. 

In the end, No England player could begrudge South Africa their 20-point winning margin. They looked the dominant side nearly the whole way through the final. Here’s how RugbyPass rated the Springboks: 

15. Willie Le Roux – 6

Starting with a poor pass to Kolbe and a knock-on when clobbered by Sam Underhill. However, those nerves were misleading as he largely played with a confident swagger. His awareness of space was personified in the key moments after England missed a penalty kick to close to 15-12. His excellent tactical kick forced England to concede huge territory and from the lineout restart came the penalty for 18-9. Departed on 68 minutes for Frans Steyn knowing the result was in the bag.   


14. Cheslin Kolbe – 6

His contribution was restricted as the action tended to take place elsewhere. Showed fabulous hands to grasp an early poor pass from le Roux off his toes and soon put in a brave tackle on the sprinting Jonny May. It was his hands on the floor at a ruck that enabled England to pull level on 23 minutes. He then featured very little as the ball didn’t come down his channel for long periods. However, he stayed alert and was rewarded with the counter-attacking try on 74 minutes when he duped Farrell and was too quick for Billy Vunipola.  


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13. Lukhanyo Am – 6

A soft knock-on on halfway on 28 minutes was the sort of error that could have eaten away on the mind of a weaker mind, but he didn’t blink. Demonstrated a lovely directness on the ball, his break approaching the interval highlighting his threat as the ensuing kick forced a knock-on from Elliot Daly. It was his assist that then gave Mapimpi the run-in for the all-important first try. 

12. Damian de Allende – 7

He was his backline’s most consistent performer throughout the tournament and he capped it with another positive display in the final. Help shut down the English ball-carrying threat while also being direct in the carry, making many hard yards in his 54 metres off a dozen runs. 

11. Makazole Mapimpi – 6

His tally coming into the game of nine international tries in nine matches in 2019 became ten in ten when he provided the final’s key score, racing over on 64 minutes having kicked ahead and then collecting a pass from Am. Earlier, it had been his carry that led to the incident where Sinckler wound up concussed by Maro Itoje in friendly fire. Was generally busier than Kolbe and his aerial skills were repeatedly witnessed with some excellent catches.  

10. Handre Pollard – 8

Very curious how much criticism he was forced to endure throughout the tournament. He was on the money here in the final, giving his dominant pack every go-forward and richly rewarding them with his accuracy off the kicking tee in turning penalties into inspiring points. A kick and catch on six minutes suggested this would be his day and he went on from there, executing so many actions perfectly and clocking up his team’s most metres in the carry by the interval. Was at fault for the no-release penalty that could have allowed England get to within three points in the second half, but he quickly bounced back with composure to ensure the win was comprehensively closed out.  

9. Faf de Klerk – 7

Missed a number of tackles but that shortcoming wasn’t going to blot his copy in a contest where he clearly eclipsed the unsettled Ben Youngs. All the usual de Klerk features were evident but he also showed he was ready to do that and more by quickly tapping and going from a penalty awarded on four minutes. It showed the Boks wouldn’t be predictable and pedestrian as they have been accused of. Played for 77 minutes.  

1. Tendai Mtawarira – 8 

There were tackles and a couple of fleeting carries, but it was all about the scrum for ‘The Beast’. With the match restarting at the set-piece after Sinckler’s third-minute exit, he rocked replacement Dan Cole to win the penalty that grabbed the momentum and ensured the Boks scrum was dominant in a count where it won five penalties to England’s one. Departed on 44 minutes and Steven Kitshoff arrived on to help win a penalty at the restarting scrum. The sub loosehead went on to impress to earn a similar 8/10 rating. 

2. Mbongeni Mbonambi – 5

Had shown energy in the tackle and accuracy at the lineout, but he didn’t last long as a bang to head when tackling Billy Vunipola prematurely ended his game. Malcolm Marx, though, was a more than adequate replacement. He may have conceded the in from the side penalty that allowed England get the score to 18-12, but his tackle count reached double digits and his presence clearing out at the breakdown was invaluable in his 7/10 effort.     

3. Frans Malherbe – 7

It was his first-minute carry led to Pollard’s first shot at the posts and although that kick was missed, it set in train the pattern that was early South African dominance. Will have been pleased with the 17th-minute scrum penalty forced from Mako Vunipola and with his tackling as his count had reached ten before he gave way on 44 minutes for Vincent Koch who contributed a similar 7/10 performance. 

4. Eben Etzebeth – 8

Was everything South Africa would have wanted him to be, a spoiling nuisance whose annoying presence gradually ratcheted up the frustrations of an England pack that failed to come anyway close to the reaching the tempo of their win over New Zealand. Needed treatment for his shoulder on 28 minutes but ploughed on to be his team’s top tackler by the interval. Showed he can have soft hands too, off-loading one-handedly on 56 minutes before he gave way four minutes later to RG Snyman.

5. Lood de Jager – 5

A shoulder injury suffered on 22 minutes when tackling Billy Vunipola ended his final early but similar to Mbonambi’s departure, de Jager’s exit didn’t hinder the Boks in the slightest. His replacement Franco Mostert may have look ponderous on the ball but he got through a ton of work without it and he was his team’s top tackler with 16, three more than next-best Etzebeth for an 8/10 rating.   

6. Siya Kolisi – 7

The stars aligned in Yokohama for Kolisi, who became the first black man to lift the World Cup for South Africa. He will never get man of the match awards for what he does on the pitch. Ugly, selfless work at the breakdown doesn’t catch the eye in the same way as other rugby aspects do, but he was a man on a mission and his energetic leadership helped keep the Boks focused on their job. Lasted 64 minutes in what was his 50th cap, Francois Louw coming on. 

7. Pieter-Steph Du Toit – 7

It was his error, gathering a fumble by Pollard in an offside position, that put an end to South Africa’s early dominance. He was also hit hard by Underhill on 28 minutes, but he gave that and more back to the England players in a performance where his second-half was better than his first. A menace in slowing down England ball, he forced one crucial turnover in his 22 with the score stood at 15-6. 

8. Duane Vermeulen – 8

The player England simply had no answer for. It was his presence over ball that resulted in Farrell conceding the penalty that gave South Africa their early lead and his imperious performance built from there. There was one smashing turnover after the eclipsed Billy Vunipola had fastened onto loose ball from a Pollard spill, and he finished the first half with a healthy 35-metre total in the carry. Continued in the same way in the second half, stifling England’s ruck at every turn, and he deservedly earned the official man of the match award. 

WATCH: World Rugby’s highlights package as South Africa beat England in the World Cup final

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South Africa player ratings vs England