Image: Gallo Images/Steve Haag of New Zealand captain Sam Cane tackling South African player Faf de Klerk in an August 2023 Rugby World Cup warm-up game
There is no greater challenge for New Zealand and South Africa than what they both view as the sport’s greatest rivalry, and the World Cup final on Saturday will be one of their most crucial contests as each team goes for a record-breaking fourth world championship.
A prior World Cup final, numerous bloody fights, a 0-0 tie, and political unrest have all occurred within the 102-year history of this match.
With 62 victories over South Africa’s 39 in 105 games, New Zealand holds a commanding lead in their head-to-head series and is the only country the Springboks have a losing record against.
On the other hand, New Zealand’s win percentage (59%) against any opponent is lowest against the Springboks.
Siya Kolisi, the captain of South Africa, refers to it as “the biggest sporting rivalry in history,” whereas Jeff Wilson, a former winger for New Zealand, sees it as a bond between the two countries.
“It is such an important part of the two countries and how they are connected,” Wilson stated. “It is competitive on the field, but you can see off it there is a healthy respect.”
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New Zealand will be urged to contain their joy at making it to the Rugby World Cup final and refrain from putting too much time and effort into looking ahead.
a week ago
Their first encounter occurred in 1921 when South Africa began a tour of Australia and New Zealand. The three-match test series was tied, with the final match ending in a scoreless draw.
Even if the last game was played in appalling circumstances, the tour would mark the beginning of an enduring love-hate relationship.
Up until 1981, when South Africa toured New Zealand for a set of three matches that were disrupted by protesters, tours were controversially continued during the Apartheid era.
Even as the Springboks amended their all-white selection criterion to include one Black player in flyhalf Errol Tobias, South Africa’s participation in New Zealand sparked controversy in a combination of politics and sport.
The third test was won by New Zealand 25-22 when flour bombs were dropped into the field and fighting broke out outside the stadium, giving them a 2-1 series victory.
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The tense Rugby World Cup semifinal between the Springboks and England at the weekend was not without controversy.
TROUBLE ON THE TOUR
In 1986, a group of New Zealand players known as the “Cavaliers” traveled to South Africa while wearing an all-black uniform with yellow accent.
Of the 30 players that were supposed to travel on the 1985 official tour, 28 were members of the Cavaliers. However, the trip was canceled due to a legal dispute in New Zealand.
With both teams close to full strength, South Africa defeated the other team in the unofficial test series 3-1.
In 1992, the Springboks made their return to the international stage. Three years later, in Johannesburg, they faced New Zealand in the World Cup final.
An incredible 15-12 extra-time triumph for the home team over the more-favorite All Blacks was achieved owing to a winning drop-goal, motivated by the presence of president Nelson Mandela.
They have met five times at the World Cup, with New Zealand claiming three victories to two for the Springboks.
South Africa have won three of the last five clashes, including inflicting a record test defeat on their great rivals with a 35-7 victory in London in August.