Springboks captain Siya Kolisi. Billy Stickland/INPHO
Rugby World Cup

South Africa cling on against 14-man New Zealand to win record fourth Rugby World Cup

All Blacks skipper Sam Cane was sent off in the first half of South Africa’s 12-11 win.

New Zealand 11

South Africa 12

CHAOS, CARDS, and clamour. It was hard to think in the stands of Stade de France at times tonight, so we can only imagine what it was like on the pitch amid the frenetic scenes of this World Cup finale.

As has become their habit, the Springboks kept their heads just enough to edge home, securing back-to-back World Cup trophies and a record-setting fourth for their great rugby nation.

In front of 80,065 people – a mixture of South Africans, Kiwis, French, and even Irish – Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks did enough damage in the first half through the boot of Handré Pollard to see them home, as they had to defend desperately against the dangerous 14-man All Blacks in the second.

The Kiwis lost skipper Sam Cane to a red card in the 29th minute after his high tackle on Springboks centre Jesse Kriel, one of two cards in the opening 40 for the Kiwis, with flanker Shannon Frizell spending 10 minutes in the sin bin.

The Boks had two cards in the second half on a busy night for referee Wayne Barnes, with captain Siya Kolisi binned for a high tackle and then wing Cheslin Kolbe seeing yellow for a deliberate knock-on in the tense closing stages, meaning it finished with 14 players v 14.

And though the Kiwis scored the only try of the game through fullback Beauden Barrett to set up a dramatic finish, the South Africans were able to cling on even at moments when it looked like the New Zealanders might break out from deep.

This wasn’t a World Cup classic in terms of running rugby but it was riveting, anxiety-inducing, and a genuine rollercoaster with surprises at every turn. In those circumstances, the Boks so often succeed and they did it once again tonight. 

Having won their quarter-final and semi-finals by a point, they did it again here in Paris.

The South Africans had to play 77 minutes without the only specialist hooker in their squad, Bongi Mbonambi forced off injured early, and while their lineout came under intense pressure as Deon Fourie took over, the Boks found a way to win. It’s how they roll.

Irish assistant coach Felix Jones departs to join England with a second World Cup winner’s medal, while Munster locks Jean Kleyn and RG Snyman played their part of the Boks as part of their brave 7/1 bench selection. 

sam-cane-dejected-after-receiving-a-red-card Sam Cane was sent off in the first half. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

It didn’t take long for the chaos to take hold as the game kicked off in the rain, with Frizell sent for 10 minutes in the bin after an illegal clearout on Bongi Mbonambi in which he dropped his weight onto the Boks hooker’s knee.

It was reviewed off-field and remained a yellow but it ended Mbonambi’s night. He limped off after just three minutes as out-half Pollard opened the scoring off the tee from that penalty. The South African out-half added another three points before Frizell’s return, with Kiwi loosehead Ethan de Groot pinged for not rolling away as the Boks threatened near his tryline.

With Frizell back, the All Blacks sparked into life with a quick lineout that led to Faf de Klerk tackling Mark Telea off the ball, inviting the Kiwis into the Boks’ 22 for the first time. It nearly ended with a brilliant try as centre Jordie Barrett dinked a delightful left-footed chip for Ardia Savea to chase, only for the bounce to just beat him.

But referee Wayne Barnes went back to the penalty advantage, replacement Boks hooker Fourie having entered the breakdown illegally and All Blacks out-half Richie Mo’unga made it 6-3.

A hard penalty against Savea allowed the Boks to make it a six-point lead only minutes later, though, with Barnes admitting his error even as Pollard lined up his third successful kick at goal.

Though the rain stopped as Pollard made it 9-3, both sides started to produce errors in the next 10-minute period, which concluded with Cane’s red-card hit on Kriel. Barnes showed him yellow and was soon notified that it had been upgraded to red.

brodie-retallick-competes-for-a-lineout-with-eben-etzebeth Eben Etzebeth competes at the lineout. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

To rub salt into the wood, that confirmation came as Pollard prepared himself for another successful penalty, earned by 37-year-old Duane Vermeulen’s jackal turnover penalty.

But the Kiwis ended the half in more positive fashion as big carries from Frizell and Telea got them in behind the Boks. They swung the ball to their right in the South Africa 22 but the offside Pieter-Steph du Toit got in the way of the pass. Rieko Ioane nearly scored in the left corner on advantage but they went back for Mo’unga to make it 12-6 at the break.

Erasmus’ men nearly started the second half in dream fashion as Kolisi gathered a spilled high ball from Beauden Barrett, got hauled down a few metres out and offloaded for centre Damian de Allende to power at the line, only for Jordie Barrett to hold him up.

Kurt-Lee Arendse nearly got over in the right corner two minutes later off a clever Willemse grubber kick but he knocked on over the line, with his foot in touch for good measure.

The Boks were piling on the pressure but their efforts to start killing the game off took a big blow in the 46th minute as skipper Kolisi was shown yellow for his high tackle on stand-in Kiwi captain Savea. 

Off went Kolisi for 10 minutes and a review of his tackle, while Telea soon went up and won back an Aaron Smith box kick, only for Mo’unga to knock the ball on with opportunity beckoning down the left.

faf-de-klerk-passes-out-the-back-of-the-scrum Faf de Klerk throws a pass. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

But they came back again as their brilliant catch-pass skills created another chance out on the right. As they played off the touchline, Scott Barrett was smashed in an off-the-ball tackle.

As the All Blacks turned down a shot at goal and instead kicked into the right corner, it was confirmed that Kolisi would return from his yellow card. And there was another boost as the Boks muscled up to successfully repel the All Blacks’ effort from the five-metre line.

Soon before Kolisi got back on, it looked like the All Blacks had finally made their mounting momentum count as Mo’unga skinned de Allende and offloaded inside for Smith to seemingly score. But the Boks appealed vigorously and TMO Tom Foley showed that Savea had knocked on as the Kiwis launched from the lineout.

Even with Kolisi back on, the pressure continued as de Klerk illegally stripped the ball from Savea in a tackle. Once again, the Kiwis went into the right corner. And finally, the All Blacks got their reward.

They battered away, earning penalty advantage and Jordie Barrett swung a long pass wide left to Telea, who danced around two would-be tacklers and then offloaded to Beauden Barrett on the bounce, allowing the fullback to dive into the left corner. Mo’unga couldn’t convert from out wide and the Boks clung onto their lead at 12-11.

aaron-smith-scores-a-try-which-is-later-disallowed-for-a-knock-on Aaron Smith finishes a disallowed try. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

The All Blacks were playing all the rugby and when the Boks needed a momentum-shifter, it was replacement back row Kwagga Smith who came up with two big defensive plays to force turnovers. 

The tension rose and rose in Stade de France as the seconds ticked by, both teams calling on their benches for energy.

Boks wing Cheslin Kolbe tried a 50-metre drop goal with 10 minutes left, the third such effort from the Boks after earlier attempts from fullback Willemse, but it was the 14-man Kiwis who properly threatened next.

A turnover in their own half saw them counter from deep and as replacement Anton Lienert-Brown tried to offload just inside the Boks half, Kolbe’s hand fired up to knock it on. A TMO review followed and Kolbe was binned with just over seven minutes left.

Jordie Barrett decided to have a shot at goal from about 10 metres in from the right-hand touchline and three inside the Boks half. He was wide to the left.


The Kiwis kept coming and once again burst forward out of their own half in the final minute but with South African hearts in mouths, Lienert-Brown knocked on Savea’s offload.

New Zealand scorers:

Tries: Beauden Barrett

Conversions: Richie Mo’unga [0 from 1]

Penalties: Richie Mo’unga [2 from 2], Jordie Barrett [0 from 1]

South Africa scorers:



Penalties: Handré Pollard [4 from 4]

NEW ZEALAND: Beauden Barrett; Will Jordan (Anton Lienert-Brown ’71), Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Mark Telea; Richie Mo’unga (Damian McKenzie ’75) , Aaron Smith (Finlay Christie ’66); Ethan de Groot (Tamaiti Williams ’66), Codie Taylor (Samisoni Taukei’aho ’66), Tyrel Lomax (Nepo Laulala ’66); Brodie Retallick (Dalton Papali’i ’71), Scott Barrett; Shannon Frizell (yellow card ’3) (Sam Whitelock ’55), Sam Cane (captain) (red card ’29), Ardie Savea.

SOUTH AFRICA: Damian Willemse (Willie le Roux ’66); Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe (yellow card ’73); Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff (Ox Nche ’52), Bongi Mbonambi (Deon Fourie ’3), Frans Malherbe (Trevor Nyakane ’66); Eben Etzebeth (Jean Kleyn ’59), Franco Mostert (RG Snyman ’52); Siya Kolisi (captain) (Jasper Wiese ’73), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen (Kwagga Smith ’59).

Referee: Wayne Barnes [England].

Written by Murray Kinsella and posted on

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