South Africa and New Zealand have clashed numerous times over the years. But only once in a Rugby World Cup (RWC) final. It ended in a marginal 15-12 victory for the Springboks on home soil.
New Zealand are peaking at the right time after coming into the France-hosted 2023 tournament in indifferent form, by their extremely high standards at least. In their semifinal, they brushed aside a decent Argentina outfit 44-6 to reach the final.
As for the Boks, they squeezed 16-15 past England in their last-four clash. Things were just as tight as they edged hosts France 29-28 in the quarterfinals.
Banyana Banyana striker Thembi Kgatlana, who played a starring role as South Africa’s senior women’s soccer side made history by reaching the knockout rounds of a Fifa World Cup, lauded the fighting spirit of the Bok team.
“What the Boks are doing is inspiring. Not just for me personally, but the rest of the country. It’s always difficult when you win a trophy and have to defend it. Because everyone is gunning for you,” Kgatlana told journalists on the eve of the final.
“But their attitude and the way they carry themselves on the field, never giving up until the last minute, that’s something that each and every individual in South Africa has to take and keep at the back of their minds,” added the fleet-footed forward.
Indeed, the Boks have shown great tenacity and fight to reach a second consecutive World Cup final. They can become only the second side after New Zealand to defend the trophy.
They are also aiming to break free from the All Blacks in terms of World Cups won. Currently, the two teams are tied on three Webb Ellis Cups apiece. Whoever wins the titanic battle at Stade de France will move to four World Cups.
“Yes, it’s a tough opponent. Throughout the group stages, all the way to the final – even though it has not been easy – they have gone out there and fought for us as a nation,” Gabriela Salgado told Daily Maverick before Banyana’s training session on Friday.
“Each and every one of the South Africans is behind them and we believe that it’s possible [to win]. The Bok T-shirts have even run out. So, they must just go out there and give their best. They have our full support,” the forward added.
Interestingly, the Springboks have never lost a World Cup final. They made it to the decider during the 1995, 2007 and 2019 editions. New Zealand won in 1987, 2011 and 2015. The only final they lost was the defeat to South Africa in 1995.
As such, the clash is evenly poised. There will be no room error from either said. Otherwise, they will be punished.
“I’ve enjoyed watching the Boks. Very connected. Very together. They might not have played well in the last game. But because they have that quality, it comes out when they need it the most,” Banyana coach Desiree Ellis shared with journalists.
“It’s going to be a hard game. The All Blacks are in good form. But I believe in Siya and the boys. They’ve come this far and they won’t let it slip. We’re all rooting for them, we’ll all be watching and screaming from our hotel, and running up and down when we get that win,” the 60-year-old added.
Banyana’s 20-year-old attacker Wendy Shongwe told Daily Maverick that her knowledge of rugby was rusty at best before this edition of the tournament. However, right now it is sharper than a freshly sharpened sword.
Shongwe said she believes the team will finish off the job and vanquish another tough opponent. Just as they did France and England to reach this stage.
“I wish them all the best. I know they will make us proud. They’ve already made us proud by reaching the final. I hope they bring it home. I will pray for them,” she stated.
The RWC 2023 final kicks off at 9pm SA time. DM
Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup 2023 News Hub