Rugby World Cup preview: New Zealand and South Africa fight it out to win their fourth Web Ellis trophy

Published on 26 October 2023 at 20:00

 The two greatest and most successful World Cup sides face off in the final on Saturday night in Paris. New Zealand and South Africa have won three World Cups apiece, with the old rivals facing off to win the record fourth for any rugby nation.

The current World Champions have overcome the toughest opponents that they could have faced in this World Cup, as they beat England in the semi-final and the host France in the quarterfinal. The Springboks have only come unstuck against the Irish in the pool stage, but having missed a number of kicking chances, the South Africans will feel that they should have won that game too.

The All Blacks lost the opening game of the competition to the French, but since then they have demonstrated the qualities that explain why they are so feared. Their performance over the Irish demonstrated their ability to defend, while in every other fixture since the opening game, where they were missing a number of key players, they have demonstrated their famous attacking ingenuity.

These old rivals have only met at this stage once before, in a famous game that has been immortalised in the film ‘Invictus’, as South Africa won their first Web Ellis trophy, beating the All Blacks 15-12 in Johannesburg.

The dismantling of New Zealand by the Springboks in the warm-up game at Twickenham will have many believing that a victory for South Africa is inevitable; however, the Kiwis, under the coaching of Ian Foster and Joe Schmidt, have heavily analysed their opponents and earned their spot in the final. It would be unwise to rule out any New Zealand team.

Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have built upon the World Cup success in 2019 and built an imposing machine built on raw physicality, yet they have incredibly skilled backs that can threaten and cause a problem for New Zealand.

The match should be a fantastic spectacle as both coaches end their tenures in charge of their nations. New Zealand will look to defeat South Africa for the first time in the final of the World Cup and to reclaim their crown off the Springboks while also denying them the privilege of retaining their status as World Champions.

Brendan McGilligan


Image: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Alasdair Massie

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