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This Springboks team go to places that other sides can't

By Daniel Gallan
Cheslin Kolbe - PA

Yibokke lena. Yibokke le. Abamaziyo. Abazange bayibona. Siya Kolisi’s voice could be heard before he emerged from behind the black curtain, dancing as he walked while carrying the glinting Webb Ellis Cup. As far as post match press conferences go, this one was off to an interesting start.


The lyrics to the isiXhosa song that has become the driving mantra of this world champion side has a simple message.

These are the Bokke. These are the Bokke. Those who know them haven’t seen them like this. They’ve never seen them like this.

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Whichever way you cut it, this is a side that is unlike anything that has come before. Captained by a black man in a country that somehow averted a racial civil war, filled with players from rural farms, small towns and working class families, fuelled by an ethos that what they do means more than acts on a rugby field, this side under Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber are something else. Both in complexion and in style. And yet the final was won through typical Springboks virtues.

They were on defence, thundering into tackles in the close channels and scrambling like zealots whenever the line was breached. Faf de Klerk and Steven Kitshoff each made 13 hits. Siya Kolisi made 14. Frans Malherbe 15 and Franco Mostert. Deon Fourie, who captained his country at times in the most important match of a test career that only began three years ago at the age of 35, crunched 21 tackles. But they were all eclipsed by Pieter-Steph du Toit’s staggering tally of 28.

The blue-eyed giant with the perpetual face of an 11-year-old boy made 14 tackles in each half. One on Jordie Barrett late in the piece was just one moment that helped turn an epic match to his will. Rightly named the best on the pitch, du Toit is now a firm contender for greatest ever Springbok. A double World Cup champion with a British & Irish winner’s medal and a World Player of Year Award, it’s hard to imagine what might have happened if he wasn’t wearing green last night.

Nienaber, who came close to tears on a few occasions during the post-match press conference, joked that if a plastic bag drifted across the field, du Toit would chase it down and tackle it. Kolisi spoke of his leadership qualities off the pitch, how he helped rouse a deflated team doing a difficult period against England last week.


There’s something about this team that refuses to die. There were a hundred moments when they could have been beaten last night. Mark Telea was a menace from broken play. The Barrett brothers linked up with a telepathic understanding. And Ardie Savea was outstanding, carrying the hopes of his nation and several Springboks tacklers across a display that didn’t deserve to end on the losing side. But for whatever reason, when it matters most, South Africa found a way.


They got lucky. Of that there’s no doubt. Sam Cane’s first half red card was harsh on the player who became the first man to get sent off in a World Cup final. But it was the correct decision. Afterwards, when he sat alongside his departing coach Ian Foster for New Zealand’s post-match duties, Cane wore the distraught face of a man on his way to the gallows. “I’m going to have to live with [it] forever,” he said.

Now in the cold light of a morning we can say that Cane’s sending off on 32 minutes should have killed the game. And at 12-6 three minutes after the break, it should have ended when Kolisi, a usually selfless player, caught a case of white line fever as he chose to dart for the try himself rather than pass to runners off either shoulder. Two minutes later Kurt-Lee Arendse couldn’t dot down when he slipped past Beauden Barret’s blindside and pounced on a bouncing ball. The Springboks have long carried the idea that fate is on their side. Maybe this was a sign that wasn’t quite true.

New Zealand rallied. It was remarkable to witness after they’d had their captain and a key part of their engine stripped away. They made a mess of South Africa’s line-out and with Richie Mo’unga pulling the strings and straightening the line, a way back was plotted.


South Africa’s gamble to go with a 7-1 bench split always carried a degree of risk. Especially in the wet. There was every chance that an important member of the backline slipped and pulled something, or tweaked a knee. Nienaber admitted afterwards that he was playing it close to the line with his selection call and that an injury to one of two players would have derailed his plans. Faf de Klerk the scrum-half was the first. Bongi Mbonambi the hooker was the second. Of course it was Mbonambi who felt the brunt of a dirty Shannon Frizell hit from a side entry at the ruck and had to make way after just four minutes. Luckily for Nienaber, Fourie stepped up with a performance for the ages.

Siya Kolisi – PA

He couldn’t find his jumpers but he hammered every ruck like a man who couldn’t feel pain. He was helped by the introduction of Kwagga Smith who thrice stole the ball from a New Zealander’s grasp, once off Will Jordan when the All Blacks were flooding through a half gap down the left tram. Nienaber emphasised the value of having a group of 33 who have absolutely bought into the idea that the collective is greater than any of their own individual aspirations. When the Springboks play like that it’s easy to see that this is not a marketing ploy, but something truly and authentically felt throughout the squad.

This is why the Springboks have deeper wells than most teams. This is why when three knockout games are decided by just a single point, it is them, and not their opponents, who are on the right side of the score. It is their force of will, as much as anything that can be studied empirically, that compels them into the next hit, the next carry, the next chase.

Despite the beaming smile he wore, Kolisi spoke after the match like a man on a mission, rather than a man who had just accomplished one. He spoke in the present tense, emphasising the role his team serve as torchbearers of what is possible in a fractured land. His words almost moved him to tears. Veteran journalists in the seats below were barely holding it together.

This was the Bok captain. And this was the Bok coach. A glinting golden trophy between them as the outright most successful team in rugby’s most important event. They got there through fanatic defence, brutality around the breakdown and unnerving self belief that what they do truly matters.

Yibokke lena. Yibokke le. Abamaziyo. Abazange bayibona.

These are the Bokke. These are the Bokke. Those who know them haven’t seen them like this. They’ve never seen them like this.



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Turlough 231 days ago

I think New Zealand talk the talk with humility but in recent years have rarely walked the walk. New Zealand had a walk over semi were playing a fatigued team in the final and they fucked it up.
Not only did Foster blame TMO Tom Foley for Saturday’s decisions but he also took the opportunity for blaming him for the 3rd test against Ireland. It is easy to be humble in victory, the test is humility in defeat. Especially poor when the lack of humility comes at the cost of petty attacks against referees and officials. For Saturday’s result look to Foster and his captain.

Paul 231 days ago

With everyone having a say about the ref and some supporters feeling hard done by. I think the ref had a good game, Missed a few things on both sides, but in general got all the big calls correct.

I take my hat off to both teams, after the game was done and dusted you could see images of the players interacting and spending time on the pitch as friend not rivals. The pics of Whitelock introducing his kids to DDA, That to me is what made this Final such a great game, as both teams gave it there all and could stand together after the game and enjoy he occasion.

As a Bok supporter I could not be prouder of our team. For the NZ guys I’m looking forward to what Razor will be doing with the All Blacks in the next few years

Gerald 231 days ago

To win this game the Boks had to dig deep. Losing Marx, and then Bongi at 4 mins, meant we ‘lost’ 2 areas where we could launch attacks or at least advantage. Playing Deon Fourie for 76 mins effectively against 2 fresh hookers meant we would be up against it in scrums eventually. It proved true. Our lineout also came under pressure from their locks. And having 2 yellows meant we could never really get a numbers advantage. So it left us having to dig deep and use our defense to stop their momentum. The ABs are a proper side and have the most clinical attack when they get going. The momentum stopping defense by PSDT was critical. Siya also butchered a chance which was tough. BUT, the intro of Kwagga again came with game turning interventions. If you want to win these games you need these big plays. Not sure if this means we go to the well, but we stayed in the fight for 3 weeks, and that meant we created our own chances. The next 4 years we will evolve and create other avenues to get an advantage. We have the cattle.

Gordon 232 days ago

Yeah, okay. But in spite of all the hyperbole of going to dark places, you need a fair bit of luck to win a World Cup final, unless you’ve dominated the match. At the end of the day, SA did not score any points in the second half, even though NZ played the entire half short of one player. The luck and there was lots of it:

  • Crucially one of the penalties was a mistake but for reasons unknown once you’ve awarded a penalty it can’t be reversed - which doesn’t sound right. Surely a scrum should’ve been awarded to rectify the error.
  • Regardless of heroics in tackling, goal kicking won the day. If one kick went the other way we would’ve been talking about redemption etc. The disallowed try was much closer to the posts than the try that was allowed and therefore the conversion was easier. Note further, regardless of the great defence, the defence was beaten twice.
  • There were inconsistencies with rulings of red and yellow cards.
  • The final scrum could in any other game have resulted in a free kick to NZ, given that de Klerk didn’t put the ball in because he knew NZ had the upper hand.
  • Somehow the NZ scrum had the upper hand on the SA bomb squad even though they were packing down with a back, albeit a reasonably bit one, on the side. But the dominance never resulted in any penalties whereas in a plethora of other games there have been many penalties.
So you have to be lucky to win a World Cup in rugby and any other game - I won’t mention what the other games are.

Note that in this article, Frizzell is accused of being dirty - come on - you’re ruling on the outcome rather than the act, which is exactly what the TMO did. Someone is injured, therefore there must’ve been foul play.

Drew 232 days ago

Every player in the Bok team was fantastic. Kurt Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe, what a pair of hard working all around ballers. Willemse with the tough defense, solid aerial skills and magic feet, Willie with the sublime decision making, passing and leadership, the centres that just work work work on defense and gain ground every time they touch the ball, Manie with his incredible passing and Pollie with his massive BMT. The loose forwards, unreal. All of them. Duanne. 37. Arguably our best ever number 8. Kwagga with turnover after turnover and jinking hard to knock over runs. PSdT and Kolisi. How many tackles at crucial moments. Eben. An absolute rock. Sous, the guy has an endless energy supply. Klein with sheer power, RG with his insane runs and offloads, Bongi and Marx, could you ask for 2 better hookers in the world? And our props. Feared around the world for their fantastic scrummaging, but Frans Malherbe made 15 tackles in the final. Kitsoff got us a crucial turnover on our line when we were under the pump. Ox Nche single handedly won the game against England. Koch with his scrumming and his bullocking carries. Everyone to a man stood and and made themselves count.

Jen 232 days ago

Crikey, the RWC has brought out the worst in people on this site. And when I say this, I mean fans of all persuasions. Did you know that you can both lose or win a final (or quarter final) without being a giant spiteful asshat about it? Crazy I know. But true. Well done Boks. You got through the hardest draw ever and managed to pull off #4. Although I wish our ABs had won, I love that it was our SH brothers. Bring on the Razor era!

Schneider 232 days ago

Boks did what needed to be done, hardest path to a Final win, 3 intense and draining tests in 3 consecutive weekends. Imperious and going blow for blow vs France-with 80 000 frenchmen baying for their blood, Visibly lacklustre vs England. Hanging on for dear life against 14-man NZ, yet time and time again they found a way to grind out teams and when it really mattered: made that tackle, crashed into that ruck, stole that lineout, won that scrum, held that line. Its the small margins but for a team that have been largely inconsistent over the past 4 years, the consistently won the games that mattered in a brutal run up to the winning the Cup.

Well done they 100% deserved the win!!

JL 232 days ago

Can someone please check on Ben Smith? Clown hasn’t played a minute of the game in his life and he thinks his so clever insulting (in a racist fashion) an army vet, springbok captain, and now two time RWC winning coach. Lekker Ben! Kom kuier vir ons in SA! Kom braai saam met ons? hahahahhahahah. D$$S

JL 232 days ago

That place seems to be a universe with 4 world cups in the bag. The reaction from NZ fans have been utterly delicious, delectable, soul nourishing. Enjoy your suffering and misery, let the madness of “what if” consume you, drown yourselves in conspiracy theories and keep coming with your excuses. What you don’t understand is that our team and country thrives on the salt, it feeds our souls. Every whinge is “pick me up” every complaint warms our hearts, keep going. Cry more and cry harder! At the end of it all, all I can say is: guess both Peter O Mahony and Rieko was right…. 4 more years boys, 4 more years… JULLE WEET VERSEKER NIE WAT ONS WEET NIE!

CO 232 days ago

What a load of misty eyed waffle. The Allblacks try missed kicks were the difference.

The Boks scored all their points from penalty kicks, the Allblacks went over twice with 14 men and we're all over the Boks in the dying stages.

The fact Faf got away with not putting the ball into the final scrum summed up favorable decisions he enjoyed a clear knock on from the base of the scrum let go.

Fafs simulation on DeGroot gifting the Boks the winning three points for no endeavour a sad example of how referees can be manipulated by the Boks into awarding them points for nothing.

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