A defensive masterclass backed up by accurate penalty kicking and two moments of try-scoring brilliance has seen South Africa shock England to win the rugby World Cup 32-12 in Yokohama.
The powerful Springboks defied their critics to lead England all night through a display of strong-arm rugby that denied England any creative space.
After going into halftime at 6-12, South Africa broke their opponents’ resolve in the second half, with tries to Makazole Mapimpi in the 66th minute and a thrilling effort by Cheslin Kolbe eight minutes later.
Kolbe skipped past the tackle of Owen Farrell on the wing and ignited the crowd of 70,103 with his athletic finish.
Flyhalf Handre Pollard had set the scene early, with six penalties and two conversions, ending with a match tally of 22.
South Africa’s No.8 Duane Vermeulen was named man of the match, running for 49 metres and making seven tackles.
Winning captain Siya Kolisi became the first South African black captain to win the World Cup and was humble in victory, saying in his post-match interview on Channel Ten that it was an example to his countrymen about what can be achieved if they work together.
“We faced a lot of challenges. But the people of South Africa have gotten behind us and we are so grateful to the people of South Africa,” Kolisi said.
We have so many problems in our country but, with a team like this, we know we come from different backgrounds, different races, we came together with one goal and wanted to achieve it.
“I really hope we’ve done that for South Africa, to show we can pull together if we want to achieve something.
“That’s why we have the 6-2 split, to make sure that we go out physically, and they knew that’s what we wanted to do. Our coach doesn’t hide it.
“From the minute go, we wanted to have a good start because we know that’s what they’re chasing. That’s why some guys shoulders were off in early contact. They were amazing.
“I have never seen, since I’ve been alive, I’ve never seen South Africa like this.
“Obviously in ’95, what the World Cup did for us, and now, you know, with all the challenges we have, the coach just came and told us, ‘We are not playing for ourselves anymore, we are playing for our people back home’.
“That’s what we wanted to do. We really appreciate all the support.
“People in the taverns, homeless people, there were screens there, people in rural areas. Thank you so much. We appreciate the support.
We love you, South Africa, and we can achieve anything if we work together as one.”
The Springboks had previously won the Webb Ellis trophy – surely the best looking award in world sport – in 1995 against New Zealand and in 2007, also against England.
England skipper Owen Farrell acknowledged that his team started poorly.
“We didn’t start well and had a disappointing first half, but I’m proud of this group and proud of what we’ve done and how far we’ve in the tournament – but credit to South Africa,” he said.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said his team believed in themselves and the results flowed from that.
“We know one another really well. We have so much respect for England. We prepared well. I thought we fought back and I am so proud of them. Also we were fortunate but we are really enjoying it at this stage,” he said.
Erasmus said the secret to winning the World Cup was to make the most of what they had at their disposal.
“Just use our players, use our intelligence we have in South Africa, the supporters we have, the resources,” he said. “So many good things in South Africa but always in the past, seem to look at all the bad things.
“We just decided, ‘Listen, let’s stand together, work really hard. Play well in the field. From then, other things will come out later’. That’s what we did. We’ve won the World Cup so that’s great.”
The Springboks became the first team to lose a pool match at a World Cup and go on to win it, having lost to the All Blacks in their tournament opener.
England coach Eddie Jones conceded his team struggled to get into the game.
“The effort of the players was outstanding but we just struggled to get on the front foot today,” he said.
I suppose, it’s one game doesn’t make a bad team.
“I can’t fault the preparation of players. They’ve worked hard the entire World Cup. I think they’ve played with a lot of pride and passion. We weren’t good enough today. Congratulations to South Africa on an outstanding performance.”