Rassie's sensational Springboks stun England to claim World Cup crown

Superb tries from wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe capped a complete display.

England 12

South Africa 32

THE SPRINGBOKS CAPPED their remarkable resurgence under Rassie Erasmus over the past two seasons in stunning fashion by utterly outplaying favourites England to seal their third World Cup trophy.

Siya Kolisi lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy as the Boks’ first-ever black captain in front of a crowd of 70,103 in Yokohama will top off a truly special night for South African rugby.

makazole-mapimpi-celebrates-his-try-with-faf-de-klerk-and-lukhanyo-am Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Erasmus will take his deserved lion’s share of the credit for intelligently guiding the Boks’ turnaround since returning home from Munster at the end of 2017, the South Africans having endured two horrific years before that which had seen them drop to seventh in the World Rugby rankings.

Now, they are the champions of the world after a complete performance in the final against the heavily-fancied English, who were poor a week on from their brilliant semi-final win over New Zealand.

The Boks utterly dominated the scrum after Eddie Jones’ side had the misfortune of losing tighthead prop Kyle Sinckler in the third minute, with the South African pack winning penalty after penalty in the set-piece.

Their defence, coached by Jacques Nienaber, was wonderful, with man of the match Duane Vermeulen and his team-mates hammering English carriers and forcing error after handling error from Jones’ team.

Fittingly, the Boks sealed the game with two brilliant tries from wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe in the final quarter to show that they have plenty of class in attack too. 

It was a complete display from Erasmus’ men and, rather worryingly, the former Munster boss believes this World Cup is only the start of the resurgence of South African rugby.  

The Boks’ victory also means there is an Irishman with a World Cup winner’s medal in the shape of 32-year-old Felix Jones, who joined Erasmus’ backroom staff before the tournament.

kyle-sinckler-leaves-the-field-injured Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Springboks’ onslaught began very early. 

Having seen Courtney Lawes give away a second-minute penalty for failing to roll clear of a tackle, England were relieved to watch South Africa out-half Handré Pollard miss his first shot at goal.

But they suffered that big early blow in the minute that followed, as Sinckler’s head collided with Maro Itoje’s right elbow and he was knocked out cold. Dan Cole entered the fray and was almost immediately penalised at the scrum, although Erasmus’ men ran the penalty advantage.

Eventually, Elliot Daly forced a turnover for England after the Boks had shown more ambition in attack and the South Africans’ second visit into the England 22 saw Underhill’s tackle on the lively Willie le Roux force a knock-on.

More scrum pressure allowed the Boks to take the lead in the ninth minute, as Billy Vunipola threw a loose pass off the base of the set-piece and Owen Farrell was tackled by Pollard, for South Africa number eight Vermeulen to pounce for a turnover penalty.

Pollard slotted the points as England struggled to find their footing in the game, Youngs passing into touch on one set-piece play and then pressure from Eben Etzebeth forcing Itoje to knock-on in a lineout.

The dominant Boks pack earned another penalty at the ensuing scrum, although Pollard frustratingly missed touch, then the number 10 knocked on in the air, with Pieter-Steph du Toit gathering the ball to hand England a lifeline of a penalty.

handre-pollard-kicks-a-penalty Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Jones’ men finally got some attacking momentum in a passage that saw the Boks lose both second row Lood de Jager and hooker Bongi Mbonambi to injury, as Cheslin Kolbe played the ball in a ruck to allow Farrell to equalise for England from the tee.

3-3 was far from the worst return for England after a tough opening quarter but Tom Curry knocked-on the Boks’ restart and their forward pack powered to another scrum penalty, resulting in Pollard kicking them ahead.

Faf de Klerk soon gave away a cynical offside penalty to invite England back into the Boks 22, where the Vunipola brothers carried relentlessly in a 26-phase passage of savage South African defence. England blew a brief overlap at one stage but Garcès played a generously long advantage that allowed Farrell to equalise for the second time.

But the Boks finished the first half over the top of the English, as Vermeulen earned another big turnover penalty that saw Pollard slot three points.

The South Africans then broke out of their own 22 after the ball bobbled out of a ruck, forcing them to run and seeing Damian de Allende pass to centre partner Lukhanyo Am, who slalomed past Farrell and chipped ahead for England fullback Daly to knock-on under pressure.

At the ensuing scrum – surprise, surprise – the Boks earned another penalty with the clock already in the red and Pollard sent them into the break 12-6 to the good. 

japan-rugby-wcup-final Source: Mark Baker

Jones sent on George Kruis – considered to be a scrummaging lock – at the break in a bid to shore up that area but the Boks continued to dominate the set-piece.

England’s handling errors persisted as Curry passed forward and George threw the ball into touch, ensuring another scrum. Erasmus sent on replacement props Kitshoff and Koch, who made an instant impact by winning yet another penalty at the set-piece.

Pollard did the rest from the tee and the Boks led 15-6.

Their defence was still on top too, with du Toit and de Allende choke-tackling Curry for a turnover that, lo and behold, was turned into a scrum penalty – this coming after Jones had sent Joe Marler on for Mako Vunipola at loosehead.

England managed to rally, however, as their pack muscled up for a turnover of the Boks maul, following it up with a scarcely-believable scrum penalty led by Marler.

Farrell nailed the penalty to bring England back to 15-9 and suddenly England had a little momentum, as Curry then won a turnover penalty after Pollard hesitated and slipped running the ball out of his own defensive zone. 

Farrell had a difficult shot from right of the posts and around 45 metres out but his miss was a disappointment for the English, particularly as the Boks responded by forcing a poor exit kick from Daly and then building a maul on second phase of their lineout attack, which Cole collapsed and Pollard turned into three points.

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owen-farrell-kicks-a-penalty Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A slightly madcap game continued with the Boks conceding a penalty directly from the restart, sub hooker Malcolm Marx coming in the side after Vermeulen was hammered by Manu Tuilagi. Farrell slotted his shot for 18-12. 

But any sense of an England revival was short-lived as the Boks simply turned the screw in the final quarter. Pollard missed with a shot from inside his own half after Anthony Watson was penalised for blocking Mapimpi off the ball as he chased a kick.

Mapimpi featured even more prominently four minutes later as the Boks finally gave themselves some real breathing room with a brilliant score.

Le Roux’s calm take of a Youngs box-kick started the possession before scrum-half de Klerk found Am surging down the left-hand shortside, where he found Marx, whose rapid catch-pass sent Mapimpi down the touchline.

The left wing chipped over the head of the advancing Billy Vunipola for Am to sprint onto it, regathering and then firing a delightful pass back to Mapimpi on his left, the prolific 29-year-old dotting down his sixth score of the World Cup to leave him one short of Wales’ Josh Adams.

Pollard slotted the conversion and the Boks were able to cruise home with a sensational solo effort from right wing Kolbe.

cheslin-kolbe-celebrates-his-try Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Marx dislodged the ball from replacement Henry Slade and on the turnover possession, the ball finding its way to Kolbe on the right touchline, where he turned England captain Farrell inside out with a sidestep and then scorched home for the Boks’ second.

Pollard’s conversion sealed a stunning Springboks win.

England scorers:

Penalties: Owen Farrell [4 from 5]

South Africa scorers:

Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Cheslin Kolbe

Conversions: Handré Pollard [2 from 2]

Penalties: Handré Pollard [6 from 8]

ENGLAND: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell (captain) (Henry Slade ’50), Jonny May (Jonathan Joseph ’70); George Ford, Ben Youngs (Ben Spencer ’76); Mako Vunipola (Joe Marler ’46), Jamie George (Luke Cowan-Dickie ’60), Kyle Sinckler (Dan Cole ’3); Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes (George Kruis ‘HT); Tom Curry, Sam Underhill (Mark Wilson ’60), Billy Vunipola. 

SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux (Francois Steyn ’68); Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi; Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk (Herschel Jantjies ’78); Tendai Mtawarira (Steven Kitshoff ’44), Bongi Mbonambi (Malcolm Marx ’22), Frans Malherbe (Vincent Koch ’44); Eben Etzebeth (RG Snyman ’60), Lood de Jager (Franco Mostert ’22); Siya Kolisi (captain) (Francois Louw ’64), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen.

Referee: Jérôme Garcès [France]. 

- This article was updated at 5.17pm to correct Makazole Mapimpi’s total number of tries in the World Cup.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from International Stadium Yokohama

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