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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

South Africa and New Zealand Battle for Rugby World Cup Glory

South Africa and New Zealand Battle for Rugby World Cup Glory

Story by Lawrence Trusida, Sports Editor

THE 2023 Rugby World Cup comes to a close this Saturday as the world’s top two nations South Africa and New Zealand clash in an eagerly anticipated final at the Stade de France.

Cricket has the Ashes, Tennis had Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal, football has the El Clásico and had Messi v Ronaldo, baseball has the Yankees v Red Sox, but for rugby, it is the Springboks v All Blacks.

There is no bigger rivalry packed with as much history, pride and admiration as when the two most successful teams in the game collide.

This Saturday, one of them will become the first nation to reach a coveted fourth title.

South Africa also aims to join New Zealand as the only side to win the World Cup back-to-back.

Added to the fact it is the top two sides in the world rankings going head-to-head, is it the Test match to settle the undisputed number one rugby nation.

Despite their recent domination of World Rugby, the sides have only met each other once in a final back in 1995 when South Africa won the game on home soil in Johannesburg, with a Joel Stransky drop-goal in extra time securing an iconic win that helped unite the nation after the end of apartheid.

The two sides have named their starting lines ups, all going for experience.

With 1387 Test caps combined, this is the All Blacks’ most experienced line-up to play a Rugby World Cup final as they go in search of a 4th Webb Ellis Cup triumph.

Lock Brodie Retallick’s return to the starting line-up is the only tweak to the XV that ran out for the one-sided victory over Argentina in the semi-finals last weekend.

The backline is unchanged for the final as Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga start as the half-backs, while Jordie Barrett and Rieko Loane are the midfield.

Behind them are in-form wings Mark Telea and Will Jordan who is sitting on eight tries this tournament, with Beauden Barrett in the 15 jerseys.

For the defending champions South Africa, 2019 World Cup-winning half-backs Handre Pollard and Faf de Klerk return to earn their 25th start as a pair, making their partnership the most experienced in Springbok history.

Skipper Siya Kolisi makes history by becoming the most capped Springbok captain at World Cups, with 12 moving ahead of John Smit.
In the tight five, 2023 World Rugby Player of the Year Nominee, Eben Etzebeth continues at lock alongside his tireless partner Franco Mostert, while the front-row is unchanged with Frans Malherbe, Steven Kitshoff and Bongi Mbonambi.

For a neutral, seeing Antoine Dupont the France captain hoisting the Webb Ellis Cup aloft in front of the adoring French public would have been a fairytale finish.

However, fairytales are for children, but the reality isn’t bad considering the final product promised for this Saturday that has the whole world gripped with anxiety.

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