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The All Blacks still don't understand World Cups despite what Carter taught them

By Ben Smith
Beauden Barrett of New Zealand gives instructions during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Gold Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Franco Arland/Getty Images)

The Springboks had rode their luck through two one-point knockout wins into the final against the All Blacks and managed one more.


The rugby Gods smiled down from above as they escaped with a 12-11 win over a 14-man All Blacks side.

Described as a team of destiny where winning the Rugby World Cup was inevitable, who can then deny the presence of divine intervention.

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Because much of what happened on a soggy night in Paris was out of the Springboks hands.

The uncontrollables fell fortuitously in South Africa’s favour time and time again.

A new interpretation on foul play was found to send blindside flanker Shannon Frizell to the sin bin for accidentally falling on a player’s leg following a failed cleanout in the second minute.

Wayne Barnes later apologised to Ardie Savea for getting his call wrong on a breakdown contest where Savea had by all intensive purposes won a holding on penalty.

When Barnes repeatedly called ‘no knock-on, no knock-on’ and allowed play to continue for multiple phases leading to a would-be try to Aaron Smith, but there was no issue coming back and overriding Barnes’ original call.

As there was a try involved, this is standard process allowed by the laws to review any errors made in the lead-up.


It was these beautiful moments of fortune and chance that compounded in South Africa’s favour to keep them on top.

Sam Cane’s red card was deemed to be sufficiently different to Siya Kolisi’s yellow card offence which occurred later on.

To be clear, all these calls are justifiable despite having room to be interpreted differently. And despite all of this the All Blacks had a ridiculous number of chances to still win.

Cane’s moment of reckless aggression came at the worst time for the All Blacks, having just forced a turnover and won a scrum in front of the sticks after a period of sustained pressure.


They had worked hard for that moment for a chance to close the gap down 9-3. Instead, they were left to play with 14 men from the 26th minute having already played with 10 minutes without Frizell.

The All Blacks management and coaches have constantly defended Cane’s character. We keep hearing time-after-time that his mishaps are ‘out of character’.

When he foot tripped a fan running on the field in Mendoza, it’s out of character. When he doesn’t show up to a press conference after the Super Rugby final loss, it’s out of character. When he questions the fans knowledge of the game in a pre-recorded interview, it’s out of character. When he’s getting into verbals on the field with Michael Hooper or Peter O’Mahoney, it’s out of character.

It’s not who he is they say. Well, after all these instances it seems like this is exactly who he is and maybe it’s time to embrace that instead of pretending otherwise.

He doesn’t have the temperament like Richie McCaw to take physical punishment and stay silent & focus on the job at hand. He wants to fight back and give it out as much as he takes it, and there is nothing wrong with that.

He is far more combative in nature, his competitive edge has a Millennial twist to it. He might enjoy the verbals and the satisfaction that comes from rubbing it in an opponent’s face. It seems like he holds grudges, he takes things personally and this can be fuelled into great performances like that against Ireland in the quarter-final.

We can’t hide from the darker side to Sam Cane anymore. He’s never been the squeaky clean character or been able to pull off the ‘oh shucks’ humble persona of McCaw. Let Cane be Cane and find out how to harness the shadow into greatness.

This red card in the World Cup final will haunt Cane for a long time, forever perhaps. No one will be more disappointed than the man himself. But the pain of it will be channeled into Cane’s redemption story no doubt.

The Springboks with a one man advantage even did what they could to even up the game. Kolisi was sent to the bin for another 10 minutes, Kolbe as well in the final 10 for a deliberate knock-down.

The second half was all New Zealand which is why in the end they have no excuses to rely on. Once the dam broke and the All Blacks found a try through Beauden Barrett, the game was there for the taking for the All Blacks.

The Springboks had absolutely nothing other than a late Handre Pollard drop goal attempt which was partially charged by Ardie Savea.

For all the experience that the All Blacks possess they have, they still don’t understand one incredibly critical aspect of knockout rugby that the Springboks do.

Which is that the lead is more important than the knockout blow and you don’t wait to the last moment to take it.

This is on Richie Mo’unga, this on Beauden Barrett and this is on Jordie Barrett.

They do not have the instinct or feel for the moment required to make the clutch play when it is on offer. There were two golden opportunities that they blew.

The first was right after the Barrett try still down 12-11. The All Blacks worked down into South Africa’s half once again straight away. The clock chewed into the 64th minute and into the final quarter. These are the championship minutes.

They played 12 phases off Smith, cumbersome forward carries off No 9 that did not build any front foot momentum but didn’t lose ground either. There was no line speed from South Africa. They were on the edge of South Africa’s 22.

Instead of dropping into the pocket and taking a shot from under 40 meters out, Mo’unga threw a wild cutout pass that was potentially forward to Will Jordan.

Jordan was stripped in the tackle by Kwagga Smith for a turnover and the opportunity was lost.

They had 12 phases to sort that out.

A missed drop goal at that stage is inconsequential with still 15 minutes remaining. But a successful one takes back the lead.

The next chance came with a free roll of the dice after Kolbe’s knock-down in the 72nd minute.

The All Blacks regained possession under penalty advantage and Mark Telea pierced the South African defence right up the middle to the edge of the 22.

They have all the momentum in the world. It’s a free shot under penalty advantage. South Africa are all offside due to Telea’s run and wouldn’t be able to bring much pressure to charge the ball down.

Instead the All Blacks fall into a flat shape and try to run a pattern in search of more. They lost possession and the penalty was awarded back near halfway.

It was a two-for-one chance at getting the lead back except the All Blacks didn’t want two shots at goal.

They left it up to a 50-metre penalty shot on the angle by Jordie Barrett and he missed.

The game drivers who are supposed to make the key decisions couldn’t think of dropping in the pocket and taking a shot at three, and one of the opportunities was a free roll.

Under head coach Ian Foster the All Blacks have not attempted a drop goal. Not once.

In his first match in charge against Australia they drew 16-all in Wellington because no one had the brains to take a chip shot drop goal from dead in front with time up on the clock.

They have retained no knowledge about World Cups from Dan Carter, who in 2015 took drop goals in the semi-final and final.

Carter didn’t wait until the final moments. He read the momentum, he understood the defensive resolve of the opposition, and the match situation.

Against the Springboks in the 2015 semi-final, New Zealand were down 12-7 with a yellow card early in the second half.

He snapped a drop goal on first phase off a lineout to make it a two point game with plenty of time to play. Down a man they were able to eat into the lead.

Six minutes later back to a full compliment of 15 men Beauden Barrett crossed in the corner to take the lead which they didn’t relinquish.

In the final the All Blacks raced out to 21-3 before a furious comeback by the Wallabies closed the gap to four points at 21-17.

The All Blacks had no momentum and hadn’t had any scoring chances for a while. With 10 minutes to play under no advantage, Carter snapped a 40 metre drop goal from way out to restore a seven point cushion.

From there they closed out the game and a final try to Beauden Barrett against the run of play sealed the deal.

Mo’unga or either of the Barretts may well have missed those chances at drop goals to go up 14-12. But you’ve got to live with that.

To quote Michael Jordan, you miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take. So take the damn shot.

This is a World Cup final and you are down by a point and down a man. You don’t need a try you need two points to go in front and three will do it.

The All Blacks showed zero respect to the match situation and paid the price for that.

At least Pollard knew what to do, to try and push the lead out to four point lead rather than one.

The All Blacks end up losing a World Cup final by one point despite having every opportunity to win it.

And they have no one else to blame but themselves.


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Anthony 180 days ago

Your opinion that’s ok, but in my opinion the rule's were not followed and the officials failed in their responsibilities to administer the ruled. That’s my opinion..

Donald 228 days ago

Aren’t Saffas here missing the point of this article? Smithy must be larfing all the way to his editor with all the clicks he’s received. He’s probably got a pay rise & he hasn’t needed to respond, even once. He who larfs last, eh? Take about sheep!? Ha, ha.

Petrus78 231 days ago

Ben….buddy… some humble pie and crawl back into your hole…..SHEEP…..🤣

Peter 231 days ago

As I read I was thinking, “Who is this idiot journalist now?” Then scrolled up and saw “Ben Smith” . Ah.

My own fault for reading this drivel, should have checked the author’s name before I started.

Gerald 233 days ago

Ben really has it in for Saffa. Not sure why. But if we just look at the games, and ignore his crap, we see the following- since Rassie started coaching the Boks in 2018, we have played the ABs 11 times. The results to date are 5 wins each and 1 draw. Points scored so far are 259 to Boks and 251 for ABs. The ABs played 5 games at home, the Boks had 3 at home and 3 were played abroad . Looking at this, and speaking to ‘ real ‘ rugger men, it seems the rivalry is alive and the difference is paper thin. Whatever Ben says is basically just blah blah blah. Rassie, leave Ben to us to deal with.

Ryan 233 days ago

so many wrongs in your opening (but do we expect any less) yet somehow you get to the crux in closing….Ben you may have a rugby brain yet. Keep on working at it son, maybe 2024 is your year!

Francois 234 days ago

“The harder I work, the luckier I get”
Gary Player.
ALSO a South African.
What a strange coincidence…….

Jon 235 days ago

Lesson from DC? Have the best player in the world and clear his rucks?

On a serious note, Sonny Bill went to console Kriel in 2015 after the knockout match. Classy

ABs need to go back to basics and ooze class that comes from better prep, better athletes and more luck :)

Richard 235 days ago

We need an 80%+ goal kicker, simple as that. We continuously lose games since Carter left because we can’t take a drop goal or make all our conversions. NZ needs to priotise a kicking/game managing 10 like a Pollard instead of X Factor running 10s who miss/do not attempt kicks.

B.J. Spratt 235 days ago

Thank you to all the people who have participated in commenting on the Rugby World Cup 2023.

It’s been a lot of fun. Congratulations to South Africa. Better disciplined, better coached, better captained and better game management.

Barnes is the best Referee in the World. Let’s hope they don’t go on strike.

Everyone has an opinion and a point of view. Some take this very “seriously” and some don’t”

At the end of the day Rugby is played by men who are paid well and their egos are bigger, than the 90% chance of suffering from CTE before they are 60.

Would you want your grand kids to play Rugby? Hell no, but it’s a great gladiatorial sport to watch.

The same as Heavy Weight Boxing.

“4 More Years”

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