England so greatly utilised the underdog tag to upset the menacing All Blacks and earn a place in rugby’s ultimate match. Unfortunately, that very same tag would be the defining chink in the armor of Eddie Jones’ troops as they were outmuscled and outclassed by South Africa, who reigned supreme 32-12.
South Africa became the first team to win the Rugby World Cup after dropping a pool game, timing their peak to perfection. They built throughout the knockout games and elevated themselves to heights even they hadn’t seen in the tournament’s pinnacle.
There were a few nervous errors early from both sides, but South Africa were quicker to settle and won a penalty inside the first minute, although Handre Pollard failed to convert the tone for the match was set. There were plenty of big hits early and the Springboks ‘bomb squad’ of huge forwards led by eventual player of the match Duane Vermeulen dominated the game from its early stages, never letting England find any rhythm.
One of many hard fought scrums from the game
Penalty kicks were exchanged throughout the first half’s entirety. England really pushed the Springboks defence around the thirty minute mark but they absorbed and withstood the pressure. South Africa picked up two crucial penalties late in the half to head into the break with a 12-6 lead. The halftime score line an accurate representation of the game. Although England did lead the possession and territory numbers, they just couldn’t combat South Africa’s physicality. South Africa dominated the set pieces and especially the scrums, winning four penalties to zero, whilst their defence couldn’t be penetrated.
The early stages of the second half were looking very similar to the first, with South Africa overpowering England and winning more scrum penalties. The Lions finally found some strength on the stroke of the fiftieth minute, mowing through South Africa’s scrum and winning their first scrum penalty of the match. It had the potential to be a game changer, but it wasn’t to be as the exchange of penalty kicks continued. South Africa taking an 18-12 lead with twenty minutes remaining.
The Springboks physicality had gradually worn down England and fatigue crept into their gameplay like deadly poison. South Africa’s wingers, benefactors of that poison, were able to open the game up. Makazole Mapimpi chip kicked over the English defence and Lukhanyo Am chased and gathered before handing it back to Mapimpi who took it over the line. Pollard slotted the conversion to make it 25-12 South Africa’s way.
Makazole Mapimpi takes it over the line for South Africa's first ever try in a Rugby World Cup Final
England nearly struck back instantaneously after Ben Youngs took a quick tap and go off a penalty. He found Anthony Watson on the wing who would waste the opportunity and fumble in the tackle.
What 90 minutes ago was a serious possibility, quickly became no more than a stark chance for England as their dreams of being crowned World Champions faded with each passing second.
South Africa put the final nail in the coffin when England fumbled into the hands of the Springboks. It was passed wide to Cheslin Kolbe who put his fast twitch muscles fibres to good use, dancing through England’s defence and mercilessly spearing the nation with a final dagger. The conversion making it 32-12, icing the cake of a dominant display.
Eddie Jones’ men peaked too early in the competition, playing their final in a big upset win over New Zealand. Regardless, South Africa and Rassie Erasmus fought tooth and nail until the prestigious title of World Champions was theirs. After dropping their opening game of the tournament, it was only up, and up they went. Fearlessly scaling rugby union’s Mount Everest.