South Africa hung on to beat New Zealand in a tense 2023 Rugby World Cup final at the Stade de France in Paris, and in doing so they became the first men’s side to win the tournament for a fourth time.
The All Blacks entered the contest as slight favourites following a comprehensive 44-6 victory against Argentina, while the Springboks reached Saturday’s showpiece event after a last-minute penalty secured them a narrow 16-15 win over England.
South Africa’s Bongi Mbonambi suffered a nightmare start to the match as a knee injury forced the hooker off after only four minutes, four years after he lasted only 20 minutes in the 2019 World Cup final. New Zealand’s Shannon Frizell was shown a yellow card for causing Mbonambi’s injury, but worse was to come for the All Blacks when captain Sam Cane was sent off for a dangerous tackle on the Springboks’ Jesse Kriel, and South Africa led 12-6 at half-time.
A Beauden Barrett try pulled New Zealand back to within one point of their rivals, but the All Blacks couldn’t find anything more, and they went down 12-11 as the Springboks retained their crown.
Follow all the reaction from the final below.
South Africa become kings of rugby with dramatic World Cup win over greatest rivals
In a Rugby World Cup that has treated us to some of the greatest matches the tournament has ever seen, the final provided the most fitting of conclusions. It won’t be remembered as a beacon of error-free perfection but the two greatest rugby nations on earth combined to produce a showpiece that was unbelievably compelling in its flaws and delivered almost impossible drama until the very last second.
South Africa and New Zealand entered as three-time winners of this tournament, a storied rivalry dating back over a century, a previous final that produced the sport’s most iconic image and with the victors able to seize a record fourth title and arguably the moniker of undisputed champions. Somehow, someway the Springboks prevailed 12-11 in a ludicrous finale and confirmed themselves as the ultimate tournament animals.
Long live the kings.
New Zealand 11-12 South Africa: All Blacks captain Sam Cane’s first-half red card proved decisive as the Springboks became the first four-time winners of the men’s Rugby World Cup
Sam Cane, Siya Kolisi and a tale of two captains at the heart of this Rugby World Cup final
Siya Kolisi charged on to the pitch with arms out wide, desperate for someone, anyone, to hug. Bongi Mbonambi was the first brought into his embrace, South Africa’s hooker having begun this game limping off with a knee injury now in cavorts, cock-a-hoop with the Springboks champions again.
Kolisi broke away in search of Cheslin Kolbe, finding the wing down on one knee in prayer. Kolbe had been able to watch the final moments, burying his head in his shirt like a child beneath a duvet, fearing his deliberate knock-on might cost Springboks back-to-back victories. His captain offered an arm on the shoulder before wrapping Kolbe up in a celebratory cuddle. After a night of madcap magnificence, South Africa had clung on.
All the while, Sam Cane remained seated, eyes shut, letting the pain wash over him. Cane had been a picture of focus emerging from the tunnel ahead of kick off, eyes fixed on the Webb Ellis Cup. That famous number seven was cast in vivid white against the deepness of the black shirt on his back as he gathered his side pre-match, taking pride of place at the front of the haka.
New Zealand 11-12 South Africa: Siya Kolisi and the Springboks secured their second successive World Cup crown as Sam Cane’s All Blacks came up just short in Paris
South Africa stars on the ‘never-say-die attitude’ behind World Cup success
South Africa’s victory over New Zealand in the World Cup final was forged in their national psyche, according to some of the stars of their successful title defence.
Hosts France, England and the All Blacks each fell by a single point to a Springboks side who do not know when they are beaten, establishing them as rugby’s ultimate knockout specialists.
New Zealand overcame the red card shown to their captain Sam Cane for a dangerous tackle to take an enthralling final to the wire and even had opportunities to snatch South Africa’s crown.
But the repeat champions – now the most successful nation in men’s World Cup history with four titles – defended magnificently to ensure they they will return home on Tuesday as heroes.
The win in their own words:
The Springboks won all three knockout matches by just one point.
Springbok belief and physicality make for world beating mix
A record fourth Rugby World Cup showed South Africa’s dogged determination, which saw the team dig deep at critical moments.
Few sides have had as bruising a route to World Cup success as the Springboks in this tournament, playing against each of the other top six ranked nations on their way to the podium.
That road, culminating in a 12-11 win over traditional foes New Zealand in Saturday’s final at the Stade de France in Paris, but the Boks’ tenacity took them over the line when it counted.
They edged three successive knockout stage matches by a single point to claim the Webb Ellis Cup.
The team talked of a responsibility to provide some distraction for their beleaguered South Africa, which is struggling in an economic downturn with heavy unemployment, crime and corruption.
But while that had its place in motivating success, a full-hearted approach on the field ultimately gave them the edge.
“As a South African, as a Springbok, you always believe you are going to win,” said centre Jesse Kriel.
South Africa threw themselves wholeheartedly into battle, tackling tenaciously and putting their bodies on the line.
Their defence underpinned the victory, while forward power saw to the points, using their strengths to maximum effect to earn penalties that Handre Pollard duly dispatched.
There was also the confidence of being coached by a group who were both innovative and prepared to take risks, such as gambling on a lack of cover for their backs in the final.
Coach Jacques Nienaber admitted a sense of deliverance.
“Relief is the first word that comes to mind,” he said.
“We thought we can’t mess this up because we believed from 2018 they had the ability to win the World Cup. I’m relieved for the players, they deserve it,” he added
South African success was also built on experience. Fourteen of the 23 players who featured in the final were winners in Japan four years earlier. Yet they never looked like a side swaggering with the self-confidence of defending champions and, indeed were not among the pre-tournament favourites for many.
A loss in the pool stage to Ireland exposed vulnerabilities, although once flyhalf Pollard returned to fitness and was called up to the squad they were able to rely on his precision kicking.
Victory over France in the quarter-final spoilt the home party and the Boks left it late to edge England in the semi-final, both times displaying an extra strength of will.
“You don’t have doubts. Winning is a mindset, something we train for and that belief came through again,” Kriel said.
Rugby World Cup team of the tournament: Who makes our XV?
The Rugby World Cup is at an end with South Africa securing back-to-back triumphs.
The Springboks edged a hard-fought final against New Zealand, holding on in the final moments to close out a third successive one-point win in the knockout rounds.
They were a number of individual stars in the squads of both finalists, and a handful of Springboks and All Blacks make our composite team at the close of a competitive and compelling World Cup.
But a campaign that highlighted the breadth and depth of the sport also brought some lesser known faces into consideration.
Who earns selection in The Independent’s team of the tournament? Find out below:
South Africa and New Zealand provide a number of players to our composite XV
Eddie Jones resigns as Australia coach after disastrous World Cup campaign
Eddie Jones has resigned as head coach of Australia, bringing to an end a disastrous second stint in charge of the Wallabies.
Jones replaced Dave Rennie as Australia coach in January after his sacking by England, but won just two of nine Tests this year.
Included within that run were Rugby World Cup defeats to Fiji and Wales which condemned the Wallabies to a first-ever pool stage exit.
The camp was also unsettled by reports that Jones had held talks with the Japanese Rugby Football Union (JRFU) over a possible return.
The Australian’s second stint in charge of the Wallabies is over
Siya Kolisi hails departing South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber after World Cup win: ‘We love you’
Siya Kolisi has paid an emotional tribute to Jacques Nienaber after the outgoing South Africa coach led the Springboks to back-to-back Rugby World Cup triumphs.
Nienaber’s final game in charge of South Africa ended in victory in Paris as Kolisi became only the second skipper to lift the Webb Ellis Cup twice.
The coach is now bound for Leinster, replacing Stuart Lancaster at the Dublin club.
Kolisi first encountered the coach while in the Western Province academy, and has previously credited Nienaber, and South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, with transforming his career.
And in the aftermath of the final victory, Kolisi hailed both the human and coaching qualities of the departing coach.
Nienaber guided South Africa to back-to-back World Cup triumphs and is now bound for a role with Leinster in Dublin
New Zealand captain Sam Cane opens up on Rugby World Cup ‘heartbreak’ after red card in final
Sam Cane has said that he will carry the pain of his Rugby World Cup final sending off with him forever after New Zealand were beaten by South Africa.
All Blacks captain Cane became the first player to be sent off in a men’s World Cup final after making direct contact to the head of Springboks centre Jesse Kriel during the first half.
Having been shown yellow when the incident was placed on review, the sanction was upgraded in the TMO bunker to red, ending the flanker’s final just 33 minutes in.
New Zealand rallied in the second half but could not consistently break down a staunch South African defence, falling one point short in a 12-11 defeat.
And the beaten skipper admitted that the “heartbreak” would be tough to get over.
The All Blacks’ captain was sent off in the first half for a dangerous tackle and watched on as his teammates battled to a one-point defeat by South Africa in Paris
Siya Kolisi echos Nelson Mandela as he calls on South Africans to unite and ‘make a better country’
Siya Kolisi called on the people of South Africa to learn from their rugby team and “make a better country” after captaining his side to a historic fourth World Cup.
The Springboks won a third match in a row by a solitary point as they edged out New Zealand in Paris, winning the final 12-11, to retain their crown as world champions.
In a message echoing the sentiments of Nelson Mandela in 1995, when South Africa won their first World Cup, Kolisi called on a still divided country to unite around rugby.
“There’s so much going wrong in our country, we are the last line of defence,” he said. “There’s so much division in the country, it is possible to work together as South Africans, not just on the rugby field, but in life in general. We can’t go away from that, 1995, without that I wouldn’t be here. For people who look like me, I’ve got a job to give whatever I can to the jersey, to show they can get opportunities like this.”
Kolisi echoed Nelson Mandela in 1995 after their first World Cup triumph as he called for a divided South Africa to come together
South Africa defeat New Zealand to win the Rugby World Cup
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies