Tonight the All Blacks and the Springboks face each other in the greatest rugby spectacle of all, the World Cup final. These two mammoth sides have etched themselves into World Cup history time and time again over the years, and once again one side will carve their name into the prestigious trophy as the 2023 tournament comes to an end.
Tonight, one side will step clearly ahead of the other as they chase a fourth World Cup victory.
What: Rugby World Cup – Final
Who: New Zealand vs. South Africa
When: 28/10/2023 – 21:00 local time
Where: Stade de France, Saint Denis, Paris
New Zealand: There is a solitary alteration to the starting XV, with Brodie Retallick stepping in for Sam Whitelock, who featured in the semi-final victory over Argentina.
The Barrett brothers, Scott, Jordie, and Beauden, maintain their positions in the starting XV, continuing from their impressive performance against Argentina in the semi-finals.
South Africa: Jacques Nienaber has implemented two alterations to the lineup that commenced the semi-final victory over England. In these adjustments, Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard step in as the new half-backs, taking the places of Cobus Reinach and Manie Libbok.
Notably, both Reinach and Libbok are entirely omitted from the matchday squad, with Nienaber choosing to allocate seven forwards and one back among the substitutes. Willie le Roux is the sole back among the replacements.
As the current world number one, South Africa’s starting XV boasts a combined total of 987 international caps, while New Zealand, who hold the second spot in the rankings, have a collective 981 caps
New Zealand: B Barrett; Jordan, Ioane, J Barrett, Telea; Mo’unga, Smith; De Groot, Taylor, Lomax, Retallick, S Barrett, Frizell, Cane (capt), Savea.
Replacements: Taukei’aho, Williams, Laulala, Whitelock, Papalii, Christie, McKenzie, Lienert-Brown.
South Africa: Willemse; Arendse, Kriel, De Allende, Kolbe; Pollard, De Klerk; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi (capt), Du Toit, Vermeulen.
Replacements: Fourie, Nche, Nyakane, Kleyn, Snyman, Smith, Wiese, Le Roux.
Words from the coaches:
New Zealand – Ian Foster: “This is what World Cup finals are about. I don’t think there’s ever a small one. The fact is we have two teams who have been old foes for a long time.
“We all remember the last final between us [in 1995], which was an epic, and hopefully this one will be the same. Then you do the maths and we’ve got three World Cups each and someone is going to win four, so it’s a special occasion, isn’t it?
Sam Cane: “A lot of it comes down to our preparation. We’ve got a lot of experience in this squad and it would be silly not to tap into some of that. We’ve been really clear how we have built how we want to play as a team.
“In terms of head and strategy we’re in a good place and with that comes confidence. There will be a high level of emotion and intent to start the game well, there always is.
Will Jordan: “In 2022 we were a bit astray but we have come out of the fire a bit and the big thing for us now has been that consistency has been found.
“We have been able to put back-to back performances together, which is probably what was missing before. The challenge for us against South Africa is to be able to go three big games in a row.”
South Africa – Jacques Nienaber: “In a final it’s about the final. I don’t think the past will have any bearing on what’s going to happen on Saturday.
“Every quarter-final, semi-final is tough. Each Test that you play has got specific tests that you have to pass to win the Test. It is almost like an exam you write. The one thing that will help us is the character that you build going through those games.”
Siya Kolisi: “We’ve prepared as hard as we can. We know what to expect. I don’t think as a player it will ever get any bigger.
“They just turned it around quietly, behind the scenes they were doing their work and now they are here. We had to find our way too.”
Cheslin Kolbe: “Whatever plan the coaches have, it is up to the players to buy into it as soon as possible. For me, with a bit of a sevens background, I have played at scrum-half or sweeper, as we call it, and I have played one or two games internationally at scrum-half.
“Faf has given me some input to make sure I am up to standard in case I am in that position, but I am sure Faf will carry us through to the end.”
Key match up:
Will Jordan vs. Cheslin Kolbe
Out and out try scoring ability vs swerving footwork. These men can be the difference between victory and loss. Give either an inch of space and the defence will live to regret it.
Will Jordan has the opportunity to break Jonah Lomu’s World Cup try scoring record and has the better overall record between the two, but no one can turn defenders inside and out like Kolbe, so expect Jordan to keep a very close eye on Kolbe.
New Zealand 42 – 19 South Africa
The All Blacks have not been fancied all tournament. Their opening day loss to France put a dampener on all hopes that they would eventually find themselves in a World Cup final. But here we are, we’re about to witness the three time champions take on the joint three time winners South Africa in yet another mammoth Southern Hemisphere match up.
The All Blacks’ performance against Ireland in the quarter-final proved to everyone that the former champions could still deliver when it truly mattered. The All Blacks, although possibly considered the weaker side, outperformed Ireland on that day, and ultimately, that’s what counts. They’ve done the job when it’s been required of them, and a Springbok side that has been somewhat fortunate to have made it past the quarter finals should be no match for them.
The Springboks are gutsy and have the greatest support behind them, but will need to truly put the All Blacks off their game if they are to stand a chance. They’ve done it before, most recently prior to the World Cup, but on such an important occasion it seems unlikely that the All Blacks will allow their play to be dictated by the opposition this time.
Comfortable All Black win.