South Africa delivers the pièce de résistance of Rugby World Cup in historic victory over New Zealand

South Africa delivers the pièce de résistance of Rugby World Cup in historic victory over New Zealand
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi lifts the Webb Ellis trophy after the team won the Rugby World Cup 2023 final between New Zealand and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France, 28 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / YOAN VALAT)

Belligerent Boks deliver back-to-back world titles in Paris nailbiter as Springboks won their fourth Rugby World Cup title by retaining the title they won in 2019 on a wet and cold night in Saint-Denis.

South Africa 12 (12) New Zealand 11 (6) 

The Springboks just don’t know the meaning of giving up. They have forgotten how to lose and on an icy Parisian night, they dug deeper than ever to edge a courageous 14-man New Zealand 12-11 to become the first four-time Rugby World Cup winners. 

Handré Pollard scored all his team’s points with four first-half penalties, but it was a smothering defensive effort that won the day. 

The indefatigable Pieter-Steph du Toit led the line with a scarcely believable 28 tackles in a match that had everything. 

Du Toit was sensational in every facet of the game, carrying, supporting, chasing high kicks and taking lineouts. His display was the singular embodiment of the collective effort that yielded a third-straight one-point playoff win at the 2023 tournament. 

How they keep doing it, is anyone’s guess. Even Du Toit couldn’t really find the words. “We’re a team that loves drama I suppose,” he said when receiving the Man of the Match award. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa joins world leaders in attendance at the Stade de France in Paris ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup final. (Photo: Jairus Mmutle / GCIS)

A fan of South Africa celebrates after the team won the Rugby World Cup 2023 final between New Zealand and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France, 28 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / YOAN VALAT)

A fan of South Africa cheers for his team during the Rugby World Cup 2023 final between New Zealand and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France, 28 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / YOAN VALAT)

The plan by Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber to win Rugby World Cup 2023 was fulfilled by the narrowest of margins. But no one can say they are not worthy champions because they displayed the character of champions in so many dark moments in this tournament.

A red card for All Black skipper Sam Cane for a high shot on Jesse Kriel in the 29th minute was deserved and shaped the game but with the Boks also earning two yellow cards, it was perhaps not as decisive as it might have been. 

At the time Cane was yellow-carded with the nasty hit on Kriel heading to the bunker for review, it looked as if the match might be getting away from the All Blacks. They were on the ropes, but they dug in and caused no end of problems for the Boks in the second half. 

The Boks, as they have done many times in the past, failed to put the All Blacks away and the longer the black wall repelled them, the greater the sense of foreboding for Bok fans. They’ve seen this movie before and any failure to bury the men in black when you have the chance, ends in tears. 

But this time, because it was these Boks, who play with so much inner strength, fiery hearts, yet cool heads, it ended with tears of joy. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was beautiful. 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa lifts the Webb Ellis trophy after the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup 2023 final between New Zealand and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France, 28 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / YOAN VALAT)

Damian Willemse of South Africa celebrates with the trophy after winning the Rugby World Cup 2023 final between New Zealand and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France, 28 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / TERESA SUAREZ)

Players of South Africa stand in front of fans celebrating after the team won the Rugby World Cup 2023 final between New Zealand and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France, 28 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON)

Damian Willemse of South Africa celebrates after his team won the Rugby World Cup 2023 final between New Zealand and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France, 28 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT)

Eben Etzebeth (L) and Jesse Kriel of South Africa celebrate after their team won the Rugby World Cup 2023 final between New Zealand and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France, 28 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON)


All Blacks wing Mark Telea was a constant source of energy and danger as he buzzed and fizzed into the heavy Bok artillery while centre Jordie Barrett pulled the strings. 

But the Boks were sensational in defence and even the early loss of hooker Bongi Mbonambi to a knee injury, which saw their lineout crumble, they still stayed in the fight. 

Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk was everywhere and was brilliant in keeping the tempo of many surprising Bok attacks high, while his kicking game was spot on for the most part. 

Lock Eben Etzebeth was a towering figure for an hour while Kwagga Smith, RG Snyman and Willie le Roux were excellent in the final quarter when New Zealand had all the momentum. 

The 7-1 bench came off, but not without some problems. Deon Fourie was not supposed to play 79 minutes and Cheslin Kolbe pulled a hamstring with 25 minutes to go but played on. 

He was eventually yellow-carded with eight minutes to go, deliberately knocking the ball down as the All Blacks stretched the Boks wide. Kolbe simply couldn’t back his pace. 

That levelled the numbers in those final, agonising minutes. New Zealand might have won it, thanks to Kolbe’s indiscretion, but Jordan Barrett pulled the 50-metre plus penalty kick wide. Even with seven minutes to play, it felt like a terminal miss because scoring chances were so limited. 

The All Blacks scored the only try of the match in the 58th minute when Beauden Barrett picked up a Telea pass in the corner. It did look marginally forward but it stood. It was the first time, in their fourth World Cup final, that the Boks had conceded a try. 

In truth the Boks should have been out of sight in the 10 minutes after halftime. Captain Siya Kolisi failed to pass to an open Kriel on his outside just seconds into the second half. 

Kolisi burst through a tackle and Kriel was wide open, but the skipper threw a dummy and flyhalf Richie Mo’unga made a sensational tackle from behind. Danger snuffed out and five points went begging. 

Although the Boks were the better team in the first half, it might have ended differently but for a superb corner flag tackle by Kurt-Lee Arendse on a flying Rieko Ioane. That tackle ensured that the Springboks made it through seven halves of rugby in World Cup finals without conceding a try. 

Siya Kolisi of South Africa carries the ball during the Rugby World Cup 2023 final between New Zealand and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France, 28 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / YOAN VALAT)

Faf De Klerk of South Africa in action during the Rugby World Cup 2023 final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on 28 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini / Gallo Images)

Cheslin Kolbe during the Rugby World Cup 2023 final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on 28 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Johan Orton / Gallo Images)

Handré Pollard of South Africa during the Rugby World Cup 2023 final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on 28 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini / Gallo Images)

Tried to play 

In difficult conditions both sides were willing to try and play rugby. There was a heavy reliance on tactical kicking too and the Boks just about shaded that area of the game

The Springboks were the dominant team in the first half aided by New Zealand’s ill-discipline. 

First, flank Shannon Frizell was yellow-carded in the second minute for a neck roll on Mbonambi. It was a nasty act and in the process of twisting the Bok hooker off the ball, Mbonambi appeared to have suffered knee ligament damage. 

Then, on the half hour, All Black captain Cane ploughed his shoulder in centre Kriel’s face. Referee Wayne Barnes initially missed the incident, as he had the Frizell foul too, but the television match official alerted him. 

Players of South Africa face the Haka prior to the Rugby World Cup 2023 final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on 28 October 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo: Juan Jose Gasparini / Gallo Images)

New Zealand’s Dalton Papali’i reacts after losing the Rugby World Cup 2023 final between New Zealand and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France, 28 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / TERESA SUAREZ)

Cane was yellow-carded and it was referred to the bunker where it came back as red. It was a huge moment in the match at a time Pollard made it 12-3 with halftime approaching. 

But the Boks had their own problems. Replacement hooker Fourie was struggling with the wet ball and throwing in, and he lost three lineouts in the first half alone. He lost two more after the break. 

Frizell’s neck roll might have cost his side 10 minutes in the sin bin, but it had a huge impact on the Boks set piece. Fourie was excellent in the loose, making one critical turnover. He was also busy on defence but with the lineout breaking down, the All Blacks had a chance.

Kolisi was yellow carded for his own high tackle on Ardie Savea but it wasn’t elevated as initial contact was on the shoulder. 

The All Blacks stayed in striking distance when Mo’unga slotted his second penalty after Etzebeth blocked a New Zealand pass when coming back into the defensive line. Barnes must have considered a yellow card for a professional foul in the red zone, but he let it slide. 

The Boks rode their luck in the second half and trusted their defence, experience and calmness under pressure to deliver yet again. DM


South Africa – Penalties: Handré Pollard (4).

New Zealand – Try: Beauden Barrett. Penalties: Richie Mo’unga (2).

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup 2023 News Hub

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Anthony Armstrong says:

    Quarter final, semi final and final all by 1 point. Blood pressure is through the roof!

  • jcdville stormers says:

    I Believed,Boks Believed,now SA start Believing you can be the change

  • Derek Jones says:

    A hard win in spite of some dirty play from a few all blacks players, notably Frizzell, the fall on Bongi Mbonambi’s leg was a real foul and he should have been red carded. Incredibly proud of the Boks, so important for the country. What a pity we do not have a worthy president. Compared to Mandela it was very embarrassing to see our conniving president sharing the moment. Sickening in fact.

    • Bick Nee says:

      Absolutely! The Boks’ victory is no reflection on the most inept and spineless president this country has ever had. It was pathetic and shameful that he comes in and tries to share the glory wearing last year’s jersey (although maybe that sums him up – out of date and out of touch).

      • Francois le Roux says:

        Proud of our president. Can’t believe you not recognizing him as one of the better leaders in the world today, like many others do.

        • Susan Keegan says:

          ?????????!!! You serious??

        • Steve Davidson says:

          I actually used to think so, and even dragged my wife back here after we’d run off to England 6 years ago (again). But unfortunately he’s been a huge disappointment and unless he can prove me wrong I’ll carry on like that. Fair enough he inherited a bunch of crooked corrupt incompetents when he won over Zuma, but he hasn’t done enough to get rid of the parasites, and doesn’t look like he will until his useless ANC is kicked out.

          • Johann Olivier says:

            Fascinating take on Squirrel. Shop steward to billionaire in 10 years. How? Please show the trajectory. (Of course, we now know that it was ANC driven with tax-payer rand, in the name of Black corporate empowerment. Probably similar to what the Afrikaners did a tad more successfully. Steal some, but leave enough & make sure there’s value for ‘our’ electorate.) I was intrigued by Saffer hope & desire for something better clinging to Squirrel, notwithstanding the fact that he was Zuma’s understudy all those years; notwithstanding his ‘sudden’ increase in wealth. Maybe it was because he’s a golfer? No fool he, though. Kept dollars in his couch (smartly eschewing that fickle local currency), away from the thieving cadres he knows too well, as well as that rapacious SARS.

  • André Pelser says:

    What a win! Against the odds!
    I pity Cane, and Foster.
    Barnes and his officials will be criticised, especially by New Zeelanders, but they had their chances, we were also unlucky not to have scored a try or two.
    Ultimately we won because of true grit, coming through the toughest pool in the RWC.
    You have to give a lot of credit to Rassie and Nienaber, their management was fantastic.
    I don’t think the Boks are the best team in the world, but they certainly are the greatest, a unit that played for each other, and the country, not only burying differences but forging a never say die spirit that eventually carried them through to glory, cementing their place in history.
    Paul Newman played the leading role in a movie “True Grit” – the Boks played this leading role in the RWC.
    Many players will now retire from test rugby, we will have to rebuild, much like the Wallabies, without Rassie and Nienaber. I think we will be in the doldrums for a long time, but for now we can enjoy the moment and bask in the reflected glow of the triumph.

    • Grumpy Old Man says:

      Hey Andre’ -:I just spent the last 30 minutes looking at the English Guardian & NZ Herald match reports & have to take my hat off to the Kiwis & their supporters. They recognize the game for what it was – a clash of two warrior nations!
      Yup, there is some post mortem refereeing analysis (but that’s always gonna happen) but I got no sense of a ‘we-was-robbed’ mentality.
      One Kiwi fan put it quite beautifully – ‘if we played one another 10 times, it would have been 5 wins apiece – today was just not our day’
      For me, that’s how it should be when the Boks & All Black’s collide – a game that can go either way.
      Congrats to Siya & the Boks but also my deepest respect & appreciation for All Black rugby

  • William Kelly says:

    Quite the thing. I hope Siya told Ramaposer, at the end, that ‘we did our thing, time to do yours’. Surprised Lesufi wasn’t there for the cameras.
    What a Great, Great win. Wil we see their like again? Not soon.
    Siya for President. Seriously.

    • Robert Taylor says:

      There are a number of TRUE LEADERS in the Boks Camp – hopefully they will create a new party in time , based on accountability / integrity and results without graft and greed.

  • Chris Lee says:

    What a campaign. Extremely proud of every one of them – the guts, vision and determination – and most importantly fuelled by an almost messianic zeal to do this country proud – which they surely did. Sadly though, I can’t say all of this without commenting on the utter incongruity of Ramaphosa muscling his way in to bathe in their reflected glory. He just was not fit to stand with them on that platform as far as I am concerned.

    • André Pelser says:

      Our president’s appearance was mandatory politics, but the great divide between his and his team’s management and that of the Boks was glaringly obvious – never the twain shall meet! The ANC is incapable of raw honesty and serving the greater good, self-service is their creed, as opposed to the national service focus of the Boks.

  • I’m humbled by our win. It could have gone either way but somehow we prevailed. The All blacks are always worthy opponents- They win or loose in style-
    Hopefully this win will be extrapolated to our country in general. That the average joe in the suburbs/townships/rural areas who has a general sense of respect for each other will find common ground, and pull our nation through, even against all odds.

  • Johan Buys says:

    By one
    By one
    By one
    We Won

    Kant en Klaar!

  • annewilson127 says:

    Thanks Craig for a very insightful article, as always.

  • Coen Gous says:

    In my advanced stage of live, only now do I realise how important 1 point could be in what might turn out a major shift of change in the future of the Country of my choice, that I love beyond anything. To do it three times in a row, in consecutive weeks, I believe could only be because the Maker wanted it be.

    • jcdville stormers says:


    • audreymw123 says:

      So your maker takes sides. I was given to believe he is above pettiness and is fair and just. According to his supporters, that’s not so, but he’s capricious and takes an interest in who wins a Rugby game. How can that be worshipped and adored? That doesn’t make him a god but a man made human.

      • Deon Coetzee says:

        Take a chill pill, Audrey. It’s all gonna be OK.

      • I understand your sentiment Audrey, why us and not them in a mere rugby final. But… for South Africa so more is a at stake. Maybe our Maker see it as much more than just a rugby match?

        • Malcolm Mitchell says:

          You are right “cfdroux”. This is the wrong place for Audrey to bring religion into. She is treading on dangerous ground getting into remarks on the post-modernism concept of the trinity. However all things said God works in wondrous ways and He might just be using this team, representative of all of our peoples to work towards haling our nation!!

      • Coen Gous says:

        Really really sad to see this reply comment on DM. Would expect it on other well-known online websites, but not here. But that is the world, incredible joy deflated by a comment not well thought through

        • Steve Davidson says:

          But why did you bring your ‘Maker’ into it in the first place? That’s the problem, not Audrey. And your religious propaganda should stay in your church, not get broadcast on the DM.
          Or should I talk about the ‘evolution’ of the Boks to wind you up?
          You need to realise that there are lots of people that don’t share your beliefs and can be quite insulted by them. So rather keep them to yourself? Or at least pray for the poor old ABs.

          • Johann Olivier says:

            Exactly, Mr. Davidson. Excellent comment. Maker Schmaker. I don’t believe in any of it. Magical thinking. Imagine some grand deity choses one somewhat struggling country on the tip of Africa to win a rugby match. Really? Why not Georgia? Why not perhaps intervene in places with real strife … or do you mean the ‘Maker’ took some well-earned time to enjoy the RWC? This is not the forum.

      • Johann Olivier says:

        Thank you, Audrey. Do not expect the mystical crowd to understand your wonderfully rational & thoughtful rejoinder.

  • Gavin Hillyard says:

    Hats off to the Kiwis for hanging in there with only 14 players for 50 minutes. It could have gone either way for the world’s two top teams. Not a pretty game but a titanic struggle between two giants.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      Don’t forget that for 20 of those 50 the Boks only had 14 players too! And Frizzell should have had a red card for his attack on Bongi.

  • Gavin Hillyard says:

    Wayne Barnes is arguably the world’s best referee. Having said that it seems to me that he missed repeated skew lineout throw-ins by the Kiwis. The technical backup was superb. Surely the best RWC tournament to date.

    • Robert Taylor says:

      No ref these days is perfect and Barnes is definitely the best around. Neither team have any basis to complain about his calls – he “gave some and he took some” , so all square in my book.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    Frizzell should have had a red card for his cynical attack on Bongi’s leg.
    Telea knocked on before Barrett’s ‘try’. Even my wife could work that out.
    The weather was much more favourable to the ABs despite what some people say. The Rasnaber plans B and C were based on a dry pitch with Manie weaving his magic and Pollard coming on as and when. But at least it didn’t seem to be hosing it down like last week.
    So, having watched Bok rugby for the last 53 years I feel qualified to say this is up there with the best they’ve ever done, and conditions being favourable we can expect some brilliant rugby from them going forward, but even if the weather’s rubbish they’ll still win most of the time. A fantastic team, with even more coming in the future.

    • Enver Klein says:

      Agreed, Steve, I just had this sneaky feeling that Frizzel targeted Bongi on purpose. We “had” no experienced backup hooker and the way he took out Bongi not just by the neck but also the way he twisted Bongi. It’s become more clear in the last few times I’ve watched the All Blacks that they have “dirty” cynical streak with Scott Barrett at the forefront of this.

  • Leslie van Minnen says:

    Great win. Piety that open view customers were discriminated against by not being able to see the Springboks in action even though we pay our TV licence.
    Just wondering who paid for the flight and entry ticket for our erstwhile president.
    More than likely the same folks who pay tax and TV licences.

  • PETER BAKER says:

    WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD…..AGAIN!!!! Wonderful time to be a South African…

    • Gavin Williams says:

      ZA now hae remarkable players in then back line. We wait for our new generation to complete the new pack of forwards. Can we find such coaches again. The All Blacks, England, and France could all have won. Work out the odds, 8-1?

      Gavin Williams England

  • Brian Doyle says:

    The fighting spirit of the team came trough and their collectiveness was something we can all be proud of. Siya Kolisi said in his speech that the win was for a country which needed hope, and then our President the man who is responsible for the lack of hope in the country insuniated himself into the team, and should never have been there

  • audreymw123 says:

    Well done to the Bokke. They did our country proud. All Blacks were brilliant.

    Shame on Ramaposer. How dare he hold the cup which he had no part in supporting or winning, yet he thinks he can share in the glory. No, he is a straw man and is responsible for the state our country is in now. How ironic that it takes a rugby team to bring a nation together because our sorry excuse for a president plays no part in that endeavour.

    The best part was when he was holding it, the camera zoomed in to focus only on the cup.

    Again, thank you to the legendary Boks for uniting us, if only briefly, as we come down from the WC high and return to the business of living in a crumbling South Africa.

  • Robert Taylor says:

    Boks now known as the ” one point specialists ” . AB’s were worthy opponents on a night of small margins – result could have gone either way. NZ can be proud of their massive shift in losing by a whisker. In the same breath, the Boks emptied their tanks and RUGBY was the ultimate Winner.

    • Malcolm Mitchell says:

      Yes, even though by only one point three times remember the remark by Boy Morkel, I think it was , who about 60 or so years ago answered a critic who said we should not have won against the ABs at the time with the remark : “Just looks at the scoreboard!!”

  • Rob Wilson says:

    I would have loved to see a combined victory lap around the stadium. Gracious in defeat, the All Blacks dug really deep to overcome the red card and hats of to Savea for not going off about it either. Arguably, the AB’s had an easier run up through the pool and knock outs and full credit to the Boks for a masterful campaign. I just wish that we played AB’s more often-it calibrates toughness.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Absolutely brilliant! I was on the edge of my couch the whole match and could barely watch the last 10 minutes! These Boks – and all the backroom staff – showed us, once again, just how incredible our nation can be with proper planning, the correct vision and excellent execution!

    Over to you, Cyril, you got your 15 minutes, now start running the country with the same zeal and dedication that the Boks showed!

  • Derrick Radebe says:

    Thank U Bokke! U`r exploits qualify SA as an international rugby powerhouse!

  • US SAFFA says:

    Here you have a choice to choose between being euphoric and grumpy. Clearly chose the wrong “kant”.

  • Thandiwewhite says:

    I think it’s somewhat unfair to say that Kolbe deliberately knocked the ball down and that “New Zealand might have won it thanks to Kolbe’s indiscretion”. Looked more like a mistake to me.

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