THE GREATEST! Boks beat All Blacks in instant classic to claim record FOURTH RWC in controversial, dramatic final


STADE DE FRANCE – Twenty-eight years between drinks and drama was always on the cards between these two great foes. Little did we know just how much.

But just like that famous win at Ellis Park where Nelson Mandela handed over the William Webb Ellis Cup to Francois Pienaar, it was the Springboks who once again prevailed 12-11 in an instant classic.

Unlike the blue skies that greeted Johannesburg and the Boeing 747 plane that sent shivers down the spines of everyone in attendance in 1995, rain and dampness poured down on the Stade de France.

Yet nothing was going to dampen this evening.

In a match of controversy, where cards of yellow and red were handed out quicker than a game of Uno, thundering shots both legal and illegal were put on by rugby’s two greatest sides.

Sam Cane – the All Blacks captain – was forced to watch the match from the sidelines for 51 minutes after having his yellow card for a high shot on Jesse Kriel upgraded to red. His opposite in the number seven jersey Siya Kolisi was later shown a yellow card for a high shot on Ardie Savea, but returned.

Cheslin Kolbe, the magnificent winger who sealed their World Cup triumph four years earlier against England, meanwhile couldn’t bare to watch from the sidelines after being shown a yellow card for a deliberate knockdown.

It was that kind of evening, where the margins were tiny and the outcomes almighty.

Speaking of mighty, Pieter-Steph du Toit – the 2019 World Rugby player of the year – played his best match in four years as he spearheaded the Springboks’ physical onslaught. The back-rower made 28 tackles, each as bone-crunching as the next.

By claiming their third one-point knockout victory in a row, the Springboks moved into uncharted territory by leapfrogging the All Blacks by sealing their fourth World Cup. It was the second straight tournament the Springboks won in France, having beaten England at the same venue in 2007.

Damian Willemse celebrates during the Springboks’ World Cup win over the All Blacks at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

A missed Richie Mo’unga conversion following Beauden Barrett’s 58th minute try – the only five-pointer of the match – ultimately proved the difference, as Handre Pollard’s four three-pointers led the Springboks to World Cup glory.

The All Blacks had their chances, but their usual safe handling, a feature throughout the World Cup after their first-up loss to France, evaded them.

All night the All Blacks’ timing was off and the forced ball from Savea out wide just as the men in black saw space and looked to open up the Springboks proved to be killer blow.

Sam Whitelock reacts following the All Blacks’ 12-11 World Cup loss to the Springboks at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Wayne Barnes, who was booed relentlessly, called a scrum reset as the seconds ticked by.

Moments later, their hearts sunk as the Springboks managed to win the scrum and then hang onto the ball.

The victory was the perfect sign-off for the Springboks’ management, with director of rugby Rassie Erasmus set to follow head coach Jacques Nienaber out.

The duo will go down as the greatest coaching duo in rugby history, having led the Springboks to back-to-back World Cup triumphs.

Veteran back-rower Duane Vermeulen will also call time on his illustrious career.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster’s tenure in charge has also come to an end, with Scott Robertson to take over

Robertson will have an almighty task on his hand, with multiple generational players including Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Aaron Smith to call time on their international careers. Others like Ardie Savea, Mo’unga, Beauden Barrett and Shannon Frizell will also head to Japan.

Controversy was on display from the outset, as Frizell was shown a yellow card for an illegal cleanout on Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi. The incident saw the hooker, who was cleared earlier in the week by World Rugby following an alleged racial slur on England back-rower Tom Curry, replaced by Deon Fourie.

The penalty allowed Pollard to step up and bang over three points.

The All Blacks were on the backfoot much of the opening quarter and after Ethan de Groot was pinged for not rolling away the Springboks moved further ahead after 12 minutes.

A wicked bounce following a lovely Jordie Barrett chip kick denied Savea a try soon after. But the All Blacks were on the scoreboard after Barnes was playing advantage, which led to Mo’unga banging over three points.

But the Springboks restored their six-point lead soon after as Savea was pinged for not releasing.

The Springboks’ rush defence caused the All Blacks problems all evening, as Damian de Allende and Kriel forced their opponents into errors.

The biggest error was around the corner, as Kriel stepped back into the defence and Cane failed to drop his body height and clocked the centre in the jaw. He didn’t return.

The Springboks took a 12-3 lead after 34 minutes when the All Blacks once again failed to release on their goal line. Pollard licked his lips and said ‘thanks’.

The All Blacks managed to cut the deficit to 12-6 after 37 minutes when Eben Etzebeth was caught offside and denied his opponents some quick ball.

Foster’s men breathed a sigh of relief when Kolisi blew a chance out wide when he tucked the ball under his arms and went himself after Beauden Barrett failed to collect a high ball in the 42nd minute.

Minutes later and Kolisi was off, as he cannoned into Savea. He would later return, much to the anger of the New Zealanders in the crowd who were calling for justice.

Sensing an opportunity to strike against 14 men, the All Blacks kicked for the corner on a couple occasions out wide. It came back to haunt them, as their usually silky and composed skill sets failed them.

That much was true when the TMO intervened after Smith thought he had a try in his final try, but an error at the lineout cancelled out the five-pointer.

Eventually the All Blacks did have a try, as Mark Telea, the All Blacks’ best and biggest attacking threat all night, managed to get on the outside and draw in two defenders before offloading to Beauden Barrett. But Mo’unga missed the conversion to leave them trailing by a point.

That lone point would prove the difference, as the Springboks celebrated a remarkable victory.

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