South Africa won the Webb Ellis Cup for a record fourth time on Saturday, defeating 14-man New Zealand 12-11 in an exciting arm-wrestle of a Rugby World Cup final. South Africa’s performance was largely defensive.
After three yellow cards and a historic red to Sam Cane, the match was exciting and tense. Beauden Barrett’s lone try was nullified by four Handre Pollard penalties, and the jubilant Springboks won the Webb Ellis Cup for the fourth time, following victories in 1995, 2007 and 2019.
The first 40 minutes in Saint-Denis were marred by injuries and an unprecedented red card, as South Africa had to bid a sombre farewell to Bongi Mbonambi after only three minutes due to a violent tackle by Shannon Frizell, who was sent off.
The Springboks, led by man of the match Pieter-Steph du Toit, managed to hold firm under huge pressure over the final quarter and Handre Pollard’s four first-half penalties proved sufficient to add another title to those of 1995, 2007 and 2019.
South Africa’s triumph kept the trophy in southern hemisphere hands for the fifth straight tournament and Siya Kolisi became only the second captain after All Black Richie McCaw to lift it twice.
“There are no ways I can explain it. The All Blacks took us to the end, they took us to a dark place,” Kolisi said.
“Credit to my boys too for the fight. I am just grateful we could pull it off.
“There is so much going wrong in our country, and we are like the last line of defence and we can show that we can achieve so much together.”
All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell was the first to be shown a yellow card as early as the third minute for a clearout on Bongi Mbonambi that forced the Springboks hooker off the rain-sodden pitch with a leg injury.
Flyhalf Pollard kicked the penalty and added another in the 12th minute as New Zealand waited nervously to hear whether Frizell’s yellow would be upgraded to a red.