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The halftime speech that rallied the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup final

By Ned Lester
Former All Blacks hooker Dane Coles (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

A new series has revealed the halftime speech that fired New Zealand up before returning to the field to lock horns with South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final.

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After 40 minutes in the final, the All Blacks were down six points and a captain; an unprecedented deficit on the sport’s grandest stage, and one that no team has ever overcome.

The red card to captian Sam Cane and the accuracy of Handre Pollard’s boot painted a grim picture for the Kiwis’ championship hopes.

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For the coaching staff, the challenge was clear.

“We just had to get on with it and not get too emotional or blurred or angry. We know what it means to drop a forward and go down, but it’s the mental stuff, that’s the challenge,” head coach Ian Foster said when reflecting on the final in NZR+’s latest season of In Their Own Words.

Foster’s thoughts were shared by mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka, the longest serving member of the All Blacks staff.

Enoka’s storied career with the All Blacks had seen him contribute to two World Cup winning campaigns, in 2011 and 2015, priming him for moments like these.

“My role at halftime is usually more observational,” Enoka stated for the series. “What pricks my senses is when I hear silence and I feel what’s existing in the space.

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“I quite often have thoughts which I don’t say, but in that moment I wanted to make sure that I didn’t look back in time and say ‘I thought it and wish I’d said it’.

“At times, all you need is one person to say one thing that all of a sudden gives you the power to believe.”

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Enoka had a simple message, one that invoked the pride in the All Blacks jersey and inspired the sense of hope that was so desperately needed in that moment.

“Boys, no one expects us to get the job done here, but wow, it’d be a hell of a story if we won. You’d be part of All Black folklore.

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“Go write the story.”

Short and sweet, the speech hit home for the players, as an inspired second half saw the team keep the Springboks scoreless and draw the lead back to within one point, with multiple chances to take the lead.

Jordie Barrett reflected on the speech, saying: “When Gilbert said ‘what a story this would be’, you almost wanted to stand up and run out that tunnel.”

Richie Mo’unga added his thoughts in that moment: “We’ve been through it all, we’ve been through thick and thin, why can’t we be that team that can do it under these circumstances?”

Dalton Papali’i added: “We’re the All Blacks, we’re not going away, we’re going to go until the end.”

Points Flow Chart

South Africa win +1
Time in lead
0
Mins in lead
79
0%
% Of Game In Lead
99%
66%
Possession Last 10 min
34%
0
Points Last 10 min
0

While the team did indeed fight until the very end, a one-point deficit survived the final 23 minutes and it was the Springboks who claimed their fourth Webb Ellis Cup that night in Paris.

Having since retired from the All Blacks, Enoka walks away knowing he said his piece and inspired a performance that took the biggest game in the history of the sport right down to the wire.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

29 Comments
E
Egg 20 days ago

Reminds me of that epic scene from that film. That halftime speech. Al Pacino’s character, describing the fight for the inches. Rousing stuff. Gooseflesh.

Except that team actually fought back from behind and won.

G
Gerald 20 days ago

If it wasn’t for the ref the Boks should have won the ‘87 World Cup. If my Aunty had balls she would have been my Uncle. 😉

G
Gerald 20 days ago

Time to move on. Two great sides, great game and any side could have won. Period.

G
Gert 20 days ago

For goodness sake. I have never seen such cry babies in my life. Your captain couldn't tackle. Your fault. Fix it. Grow some balls. You will play with 14 again if you cannot tackle right. Stop feeling sorry for yourself…. I once had so much respect for the ABs. That seems like such a long time ago. Face it. You are bad bad loosers. My goodness. Just Grow up please!

C
Chris 21 days ago

What a load of old cobblers… a big arse story heroically making out Enoka to be some sort of a Kiwi Mr Miyagi. Lol…
We LOST…
I sat next to Enoka years ago as a young adult. When the guy had hair and played a little Volleyball.. Seemed to me back then… like a bloke with a whopping great opinion of himself … and not a lot seems to have changed since back then… except a whole bunch of half wits glorifying the guy for being paid wads of cash for coming up with a few inspiring words in a game we ended up losing…. An indisciplined captain got a red card for a pretty silly tackle… and we were outplayed by 15 south Africans…. We can all sit about offering some fictitious script and pitch heroic twaddle… but the guys few words meant little… I don’t think professional All Black Sportsmen need a shrink to… “point them in the right direction at half time”… think most of those guys deep down realized that 14 guys would result in a loss… love the way they played… but we still lost… and the horror filled AB record of Foster ended… Thank the heavens… with the sane disturbing loss of previous results against the English… Irish…. Agies…… etc… stop waxing the lyrical about deep seated AB emotional bollocks… we got beaten… as Razor said after a previous Foster led thumping of the ABS… All Blacks are not supposed to lose…. I couldn’t help laughing reading this bollocks article

A
Andrew 21 days ago

Trying to dramatise and conjure up traumatic times. We've moved on, time to look forward. No one wants to wallow in the build up to the final, we all know what happened!

B
Bob 21 days ago

This article is about 29 words spoken by a fringe member of the coaching staff who is not involved with the team anymore.
It reads more like an advert for / endorsement of a service provider by a friendly party. Does the head coach agree with the credit being given to the “mental coach” for the improved 2nd half performance?

Different tactics maybe?

N
Nickers 21 days ago

The change in tactics contributed more I think.

W
Wayneo 21 days ago

Is this from that cheesy kiwi rip-off of the Chasing the Sun documentary?

J
Jmann 21 days ago

Let’s face it - even at 14 men the ABs should have won that game. Appalling officiating; they couldn’t even follow their own rules.

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Mzilikazi 2 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Very good article, Nic, and I find agreement with what you write virtually 100%. I think this two mach series has increasingly become one which will be very difficult for Ireland to win. After the first game of the last 6N, I would have been very full of confidence taking on the Boks in SA. France beaten by a big margin in France, it looked as if Ireland had emerged in fine form from the World Cup, despite the very narrow loss to the AB’s. But after that game, a slide began, ending with the defeat to England. Ireland were very fortunate to win this years 6N ! And as you so fully expose, this has not been a good season for Leinster, or indeed, in my view, for any Irish province. The Leinster loos to the Bulls, and then Munster letting a glorious chance slip to the Glasgow Warriors down at Thomond. Man, that one will really hurt. And both Connacht and Ulster have at times looked very poor this seaso, bith heavily beaten on occassion. The loss of both Gibson Park and Keenan are huge blows, especially Gibson Park. And there is really only one clear class 10 in the touring party, Jack Crowley, and he is still a very young player learning his trade. If he goes down, heaven help Ireland. And in my view, Ireland do not have a good scrummaging front row, SA do, and in great depth too. But despite all this doom and gloom, I always believe my team can win. Not that they will win, just can ! Ireland will still field what is the best and most talented team overall that I have seen in my lifetime. But the coaching group will really have to step up, no awful decisions like the one made against the AB’s in the QF….keeping the totally spent and poorly performing(on the day) Sexton on for the full 80mins, leaving Crowley on the sidelines. Ireland should never have lost that game !

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S
Shaylen 5 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Ireland have all the tools required to hurt SA. They develop quick ball, hold onto the ball for long periods, stretch the game when its on, have powerful mobile forwards, a good kicking game and they can hold their own in the scrum. They also can force turnovers regularly and in general do well at the breakdown. When Munster, the Ospreys and Glasgow all won games in SA this year against the Bulls and Stormers they did just that and won. It is also the reason why Ireland won the game at the world cup last year. The problem for Ireland is that SA have all the tools required to hurt them as well and hurt them a great deal more than England did in the Six Nations. They are physical and powerful at the set piece, they rush up and counter the Irish attacking system and they can really attack the breakdown and slow your ball down. Their counterattacking threat is also a big weapon and they score many tries from turnover turning defence into offence in a second. Toulouse and the Bulls nailed Leinster in this way and Glasgow did the same thing to Munster. So the series will be really interesting because both sides are so good at countering each other. Interested to see what kind of surprises Tony Brown springs and how the SA game develops. Feel like SA have more potential to surprise Ireland but then a new coaching set up as well as the fact that Japanese and foreign based players tend to take about 5 to 6 weeks to get up to speed might work in Irelands favour. SA have shipped at least one game in 4 of the last 5 June/July test windows going back to 2018 for this exact reason.

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