South Africa and New Zealand, who have both already won three World Cups, have the possibility of winning a fourth on Saturday at the Stade de France in the final of the 2023 edition. dream match between two long-time rivals from the Southern Hemisphere who have had different trajectories in this competition.
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You can follow this final live on the France 24 website
South Africa’s “bomb squad” is once again ready to take action against New Zealand on Saturday, October 28, in the World Cup final. It is made up of substitutes brought in during the match to change the course of the match or strengthen the Springboks’ hold. “Either they come in to fix everything, or everything is fine and it’s a false alarm,” explained Rassie Erasmus, then South Africa coach, during the 2019 edition.
Having become the director of South African rugby, Rassie Erasmus was again able to count on these “mining replacements” during the 2023 World Cup. Against the Blues in the quarter-final, they began to enter the field in the 45th minute . And they were quick to influence the course of the match, like the left pillar Ox Nche, decisive in the scrum. A scenario which was repeated a week later against the English in the semi-final.
Eager to impose their physical domination in the final, the Springboks chose to add against the All Blacks a second row (Jean Kleyn) and a third row (Jasper Wiese) among their eight substitutes compared to the last two phase matches. final. In all, seven forwards will therefore take their place on the bench, including pillar Trevor Nyakane recalled for this duel, and only one three-quarter, the versatile Willie Le Roux capable of occupying several positions at the back.
These choices reflect the desire of the South Africans, reigning world champions, to assert themselves in the winning phases and the rucks to deprive the All Blacks of attacking balls. A formula which has already proven itself on August 25, against these same opponents, New Zealand having then suffered the heaviest defeat in its history in London (35-7). The All Blacks, reduced to 14 in the 39th minute after the red card inflicted on Scott Barrett, were unable to contain the power of the South African forwards who had scored 4 tries that day.
All Blacks in constant progress
This rout inevitably arouses fears among the All Blacks who are preparing, in the final of this World Cup, to face their best enemies. “This is the biggest rivalry for New Zealand rugby,” explains journalist Ian Borthwick, consultant for France 24 in the program “Le Rugby: World Cup update”. “It’s the team against which the All Blacks have the lowest winning rate,” adds this journalist, originally from Christchurch and based in France for more than 40 years. The South Africans have managed to win 10 matches – and draw one – in 33 meetings over the last 15 years. For comparison, Australia, who also face the All Blacks very frequently, have won 4 times and drawn 3 times in their last 33 meetings.
Facing a South African team that has never lost a World Cup final, the All Blacks will have to confirm their progress observed throughout this edition. After an inaugural defeat against the XV of France (13-27), they recovered valuable players and found the right fuel in the final phase. To challenge the Springboks, the All Blacks opted for a more classic bench made up of five forwards and three three-quarters. Their strategy remains the same and they rely on their technical qualities to try to overtake a South African team put to the test in the final phase, with two victories by a single point difference obtained at the cost of an intense fight . The New Zealanders easily beat Argentina in the semi-final (44-6) and had one more day of recovery.
“The All Blacks were not in their optimal form when they attacked this World Cup while the Springboks were already at the top,” analyzes Ian Borthwick. For him, the New Zealanders have been able to improve their collective cohesion, particularly in defense, and they have gradually rediscovered the movement rugby that characterizes them. “They have gone through difficult times but they want to show that they remain essential in world rugby,” he adds.
A dream finale
The opportunity is magnificent for these two teams, both already crowned three times, to establish their supremacy. They have not met in the final of a World Cup since 1995, with a controversial victory for the Springboks (15-12). South Africa, which obtained the organization of this competition three years after the end of apartheid, had defied all predictions by managing to reach the final. And the All Blacks, given favorites, had suffered a fearsome food poisoning two days before this crucial meeting.
“Even if suspicions of poisoning were raised by the All Blacks, that does not take away from what the Springboks had achieved in very difficult conditions,” said Dylan Jack, journalist for SA Rugby magazine. According to him, a dream final is looming between these two teams. “Springbok fans love nothing more than a victory against their long-time rivals and it has been almost thirty years since these two teams met in a World Cup final,” he recalls.
He believes that one of the strengths of this South African team is being able to count on a spine unchanged since the 2019 world title against England in Japan. Ten Springboks are indeed preparing to start a new World Cup final four years after that of Yokohama. A valuable experience in view of this meeting which promises to be very close. The All Blacks, weaned from the title for eight years, want to rediscover their brilliance in the Dyonisian night. And want to offer a historic hat-trick to their old warrior Sam Whitelock, already winner of the 2011 and 2015 editions, who could become the first rugby player to have such a record.