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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 1 April, 2020


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Hello again.

Fancy meeting you here. 

Apologies for the very late, very-close-to-kick-off kick-off to this liveblog, but it’s already been a very hectic morning at the Rugb World Cup.

But forget all that, this is all about one game.

The big one.

The World Cup favourites are about to clash in the opening match of the pool stage and, frankly, we’ve been looking forward to this one for quite some time.

Here are the teams for what is quite possibly the biggest pool match ever in the short history of the Rugby World Cup.

New Zealand:

Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Samuel Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (capt.), Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, George Bridge, Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sevu Reece, Beauden Barrett. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta’avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Shannon Frizell, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Ben Smith

South Africa:

Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (capt.), Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Duane Vermeulen, Faf De Klerk, Handre Pollard, Makazole Mapimpi, Damian de Allende, Lukhanyo Am, Cheslin Kolbe, Willie Le Roux. Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn, Jesse Kriel

There’s the Haka, and there’s the sweet sound of Ole Ole Ole during it from the Bokke fans.

Liam Toland makes the bold choice to unleash a quote from Kant on unsuspecting viewers in between haka and kick-off.

But we won’t be distracted by that, we’ve come too far to lose sight of what’s important – this game – now.


Nerves, from WIllie Le Roux as the fullback misses an early dropping ball. But nothing but ice in the veins of Handre Pollard who punishes an early infringement from the ABs.

PENALTY! New Zealand 0 South Africa 3 (Pollard ’3)


New Zealand’s first attack ends with a simple high bomb from Mo’unga into the 22. Cheslin Kolbe does well to claim it and mark.

Oddly quiet feel to the opening minutes. Tense.


South Africa have started the steadiest, and they brought a flash of anger from Aaron Smith as he was put under pressure in his 22.

A penalty comes for the All Blacks though and they look to attack off the line-out.


The Boks’ defence is suffocating New Zealand so far, forcing them back and back before Beauden Barrett attempts a break and winds up knocking on.


Kolbe’s appetite for work is becoming a trademark of this game.

The Toulouse wing chases a grubber and pins Mo’unga down behind the line.

But there’s an advantage in the offing after another slow, steady ‘Bok attack.

Pollard stands over the penalty… and just as we prepare to 6-0, he cuts it a little too far right and it pings back off the post.

That’s a very poor miss.


Sevu Reece shows his acrobatic abilities to stop a ball going to touch. He flies and passes it back in-field to allow for a clearance kick.


New Zealand have barely been able to escape their half, but South Africa spill in that attack and the ABs hack the ball free.

Mo’unga takes chase and is running towards the try-line.

Mapimpi takes the 10 down and the breakdown penalty goes the Kiwis’ way.

PENALTY! New Zealand 3 South Africa 3 ( Mo’unga ‘ 21)


That’s a great outcome from New Zealand’s point of view after South Africa dominated the opening quarter.


Give them an inch…

Sevu Reece breaks on the right flank and sets Ardie Savea storming another 30 metres deep into ‘Bok territory.

The defence scrambles, but not quick enough to close up a gap in front of Beauden Barrett and today’s fullback raids the space beneath the posts before offering up a pass for Bridge to finish.

New Zealand 10 South Africa 3


It’s a score of ominous quality, but for those of you who remember the drawn game between these sides in Wellington over the summer, well this first-half has felt a lot like that. 

Flag 27Mins

Forget what I just said. The All Blacks have hit the ground at this World Cup and, man, they are running!

Coles offloads, Lienert-Brown cuts back across defenders to find a gap and once he’s through he pops the ball to Scott Barrett to canter in under the posts.

TRY: New Zealand 17 South Africa 3 (S Barrett ’28)


Beauden Barrett attempts a scamper up the touchline late in the half, but he’s bundled out.

The gong goes to bring an end to a half that has been compelling viewing. Tense, for the most part, and attritional.

South Africa haven’t done a whole pile wrong, but when you give the back-to-back world champions a sniff, they’ll swallow you whole.

HALF-TIME: New Zealand 17 South Africa 3


Right then, half-time oranges and another pint of coffee are in. Time for our sixth half of rugby of the day.

It’s been a Super Saturday that hasn’t disappointed in the slightest.

Can South Africa mount a challenge to keep the tension high right to the close?

Who will Ireland want to face out of this pair?

There’ll be a few answers in the 40 to come.


Ouch! Beaudy Barrett comes up with a bloody nose after going so low on a tackle on Vermeulen that the number eight’s heel came up and cracked him in the face.


Electric from Cheslin Kolbe.

The terrific Toulouse wing claimed an impeccable high ball in his own half before haring clear down the right.

Poor Richie Mo’unga didn’t know which way to turn, but he stood up just long enough to shepherd the wing into trouble.

Kolbe wouldn’t die with the ball, he flicked it out of touch and New Zealand attempted to attack from behind their line with Barrett.

TRY!  New Zealand 17 South Africa 10 (Du Toit ’68 )


We have a game on our hands, ladies and gentlemen.

South Africa take possession back and set their attack in the NZ 22, Pierre Steph Du Toit joins what looks like a ruck in the middle of the Kiwi red zone, but there’s no defender involved so the blindside is free to pick and saunter in under the posts.


Here they come.

Vermeulen steps and dances through the line and De Klerk is on his shoulder. The scrum-half has help outside and asks Le Roux to take it on.

The fullback’s pass to Kolbe is poor but the brilliant wing makes it work.

The Boks continue to attack, but ti’s slow and it slows down enough for a black jersey to pilfer it five metres from the line.

They try to attack from there again.

This is a magnificent game.


DROP-GOAL! New Zealand 17 South Africa 13 (Pollard ’58)


That was an absolute beaut of a drop-goal from Pollard. Jannie de Beer would have been proud of that.

We have a four-point game and just 20 minutes to decide it.


PENALTY! New Zealand 20 South Africa 13 (Mo’unga ’66)

The All Blacks get themselves back on the scoreboard after a lengthy absence. The lead is now, crucially, back to 7.


There’s still time for drama here, and big errors.

Sonny Bill Williams is off the bench, but he shows he’s some way off his best form as he tries to hack a ball clear from his own 22. Poor contact and charged down, but his blushes are saved as the ref goes back for a penalty.


PENALTY! New Zealand 23 South Africa 13 (B Barrett ’72)

The former world player of the year holds his nerve and the ABs have a two-score lead.


Just when you think this game is finally settling down, Kolbe goes and breaks the line again.

He scampers clear, he slows down with men closing in. He miraculously finds a few more yards after Barrett bumps him.

Brilliant stuff, but the ABs win the ball and Kolbe is limping away.

The ‘Boks will lose here, and they will be hoping to patch up their best attacking threat before quarter-final weekend.


That’s an impressive run of phaseplay from the ABs, they move through 15 phases of attacking possession with the clock fast ticking down towards the gong.

They were favourites for this tournament before today, and their odds will only shorten between now and the quarters.


There’s the gong. A penalty means we’ll play beyond it, Pollard boots the ball down the field and the ‘Boks can chase a losing bonus point.


It ends with a forward pass for the ‘Boks, but we’ll be hearing plenty more from them in this tournament.

FULL-TIME: New Zealand 23 South Africa 13

Whatever way you slice it, Ireland have plenty to fear if they make the quarter-finals.

About the author:

Sean Farrell


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