We are doing this for the 57 million people back in South Africa. —Man of the match, Duane Vermeulen

Third World Cup for the Springboks

By Roger Childs

South Africa's World Cup Handre PollardMost of the pundits picked England to win, especially after their comprehensive win over the All Backs in the semi-final. However from the start, the South Africans showed they meant business. In the first scrum they shunted the much vaunted English pack back on its heels and won the first of many penalties from this set piece which Handre Pollard happily converted into points.

It was 12-6 at half time and trading penalties kicks continued until the 65th minute. Then at 18-12 the dam broke with excellent Springbok tries from their two wingers to give them a 20 point win — the greatest ever margin in a World Cup final. Another record was Pollard’s 22 points from goal kicks.

A victory built of forward supremacy

The English forwards had dominated in all the games they played through to the semi-finals. The scrum often pushed their opponents back and young loose forwards Sam Underhill and Tom Curry were quick to the loose ball and often won turnovers. In the lineout Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje won plenty of clean ball allowing half back Ben Youngs to get the speedy backline going. The All Blacks were on the receiving end of this forward power in last weekend’s semi-final.

However, it the final last night the Springboks had the dominance.

  • They scrummaged low and frequently pushed the English back.
  • In the lineouts they never lost the ball on their throw and were able to snaffle a couple from their opponents.
  • Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit and captain Siya Kolisi were often faster to the breakdown and they never conceded a turn over. 
  • All the forwards made ground when running in the open.

South Africa's World Cup 1There were also a number of forward drives which made many metres. Furthermore the tackling was deadly and the English had great difficulty trying to penetrate the “green wall”. Often their players were nailed behind the advantage line. This strong defence meant that the English didn’t get a try and never looked like doing so.

A variety of tactics

South Africa had won a dour semi-final against Wales with far too much of the boring “high kick and hope” approach. Senior coach Rassie Erasmus had indicated that they would probably use the same strategy in the final. But he was foxing.

South Africa's World Cup Mapimpi scoresCertainly the kicking featured, notably well targeted high kicks from Faf de Klerk behind the scrum, but there was also plenty of running the ball. The South African backs were well led by Handre Pollard at first five, and a deft kick cross field in the final quarter led to the excellent try by Makazole Mapimpi.  The backs often exploited spilt ball by the English, and quick passing and speedy running led to the second try by Cheslin Kolbe.

A win for the nation to cherish

We come from different backgrounds, different races, and we came together with one goal…I really hope that we’ve done that for South Africa…We can achieve anything if we pull together as one. —Captain Siya Kolisi

This is a man who didn’t have shoes to wear to school and was brought up in a poor black township in Port Elizabeth. The coaches and players emphasised throughout the tournament that their campaign was for the people back home – the rich, the poor, Blacks, Whites and Coloureds. 

They were watching all over the rainbow nation and interest grew as the game progressed.

The crowd swelled as the game went on. From scores to hundreds to a thousand or more, young and old, men and women, all gathered in front of the big screen in the square of Newtown Junction, in the very centre of Johannesburg. Guardian Reporter, Jason Burke, in South Africa.

South Africa's World Cup.jpgAfter the game Kolisi gave a humble and moving speech, and for the first time in World Cup history it was a Black man who raised the William Webb Trophy, to the great delight of the thousands of South African fans in the packed Yokohama stands.