South Africa became the first team to lose a group stage game and win the Rugby World Cup after beating England 32-12 in Yokohama. The Boks defied history to claim their third World Cup crown, putting them equal with New Zealand and keeping the title in the Southern Hemisphere.
Here we take a look at five key reasons why the Springboks won
Dan Cole becomes another Phil Vickery: England were dealt a blow early in the game when tighthead prop Kyle Sinckler walked off due to concussion after a collision with Maro Itoje. It meant Dan Cole had to play nearly 78 minutes, and he suffered the same fate that befell Phil Vickery in the first Lions test ten years ago- domination at the hands of Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira.
The Springbok scrum had the English one backpedalling on several occasions (despite being 20 kgs lighter) and thanks to the trusty boot of Handre Pollard, kept adding points whenever Jerome Garces blew a penalty their way- nearly 12 points came from scrum penalties.
Cheslin Kolbe’s early tackle on Courtney Lawes: England were restricted to their own half for the first ten minutes, and couldn’t build the quick start they normally desire. On one occasion with the Boks 3-0 up, England had a 5 on 2 overlap, but Cheslin Kolbe executed a brilliant tackle on the much larger Courtney Lawes. England managed to take three points from a ruck penalty, but it should’ve been seven, but for Kolbe, who is so integral to the Bok blitz defence, and implements his role perfectly.
Farrell’s missed kick at 15-9: England started the second half much, much better than they did the first one, and Owen Farrell, normally a very reliable kicker, had the opportunity to reduce the gap to three points. However he missed a relatively easy kick by his standards and instead of it becoming 15-12, the Boks pounced at the other end to make it 18-9, and the game was effectively over then, with England needing two scores to overhaul the Boks.
The brilliance of Duane Vermeulen: The Springbok 8thman has probably been the Player of the Decade for them, and put in a Man of the Match performance for them. He earned them breakdown penalties, was instrumental in the massive 20 odd phases of defending on the own line that the Boks did against Vunipola, Tuilagi and co. around the half hour mark, and was also the brains of a midfield maul move that took England by surprise, and earned them a penalty that put them two scores ahead.
Two fantastic tries for the Boks: The Springboks have often been accused of playing ten man rugby, but both their tries in this game were fantastic- Lukhanyo Am’s no-look pass to Makazole Mapimpi for the first, and Kolbe’s individual brilliance, leaving Owen Farrell eating grass, for the second.
As Warren Gatland had predicted, England perhaps played their World Cup final a week before against the All Blacks, and the Boks, with their six man forward bench, were too big and strong for Eddie Jones’ side, and thoroughly deserved winners.