The strongest rivalry in rugby returns to the main arena
This Saturday in Paris, New Zealand and South Africa, the two most dominant sides from the Rugby World Cup, will square off in their first final since 1995 as they each aim for a record-breaking fourth trophy.
While South Africa looks to win back-to-back titles after defeating England in the semi-final and France in the quarter-final by a single point each time, the All Blacks are aiming to win their third title in four years after a remarkable turnaround following their record losing margin in a World Cup to France in their opening game.
New Zealand will be hoping that their attacking prowess, which has seen them record five straight victories, will be enough to withstand South Africa’s feared forward replacements, who have proven so impressive in the tournament thus far. New Zealand suffered a record losing margin in any test against their opponents the match before they were defeated by France in their tournament opener.
The Springboks are aware that they must improve on their previous performances in the knockout phases, particularly their victory over England last Saturday, if they hope to maintain a competitive edge against the tough All Black team.
New Zealand has made just one change to the team that blasted into a 34-6 lead over Argentina in just 50 minutes in an attempt to destroy South Africa before the “bomb squad” can leave their imprint.
After replacing the former for the semifinal, Brodie Retallick will start in the second row ahead of Samuel Whitelock, who is aiming to make history by being the first player to play in three World Cup finals if he comes off the bench.
The All Blacks’ sole other roster change sees tighthead Nepo Laulala replace Fletcher Newell on the bench, possibly to neutralize the threat posed by the Springboks’ potent bench. At the close of a tournament when they have overcome their historic World Cup loss to win five straight games, Ian Foster, who will step down as New Zealand’s manager after this game, is anticipating an exciting final.
“These are two teams that have been longstanding rivals. We are all aware of how great our most recent match was.
“We are at the place we desire to be. This team has thrived on staying in the present, even though we lost to France at the beginning of the competition. We have cherished engaging in it. It makes it possible for us to manage any outside disturbances to the team.
We’ve been able to stay there, which is a huge tribute to Sam Cane and the leaders. We can’t wait to see who wins the World Cup.”
A Springbok side that hopes to join their rivals in becoming just the second squad to win two World Cups has changed two players from their starting lineup.
Together, Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard have played at scrum and fly-half for 25 times, surpassing the combined 24 appearances of Joost van der Westhuizen and Henry Honiball as half-backs. The fact that South Africa decided to start seven forwards and one back on the bench makes the squad announcement even more noteworthy.
They started with the same lineup of forwards for both their devastating World Cup triumph over the All Blacks and their pool-stage loss to Ireland in the competition.
After starting last Saturday’s match against England, Cobus Reinach and Mannie Libbok are withdrawn from the team and replaced with Jean Kleyn and Jasper Wiese on the bench.
Though Jacques Nienaber, the South African manager, was sure his squad would win, he was also aware that they would need to perform close to peak in order to achieve the desired outcome.
“This is a seasoned team with multiple players who competed in the previous Rugby World Cup final, so they know exactly what to expect at Stade de France on Saturday and what it will take to win the title again,” the speaker stated.
The players who will compete in their first World Cup final have all demonstrated their warrior qualities throughout the campaign, and they are all prepared for this historic moment.
“We are aware that this will be an enormous fight. We are aware that every inch and point counts in this game, and that winning on Saturday will need yet another outstanding effort.
Nick Easter, our guest for this week’s episode, is giving England the advantage once again on Saturday. Easter began at number eight for England in the 2007 World Cup spectacular against the Springboks, so he has firsthand experience playing in the Paris World Cup finals.
“Dividing them is difficult,” he remarked. “But I can’t help but feel that those New Zealand reserve props, particularly in the closing 30 minutes, just aren’t good enough.
I’m going to go with South Africa 20 New Zealand 17 as my prediction because that bomb squad might absolutely destroy the Kiwis in the final 20 minutes.
NEW ZEALAND: B Barrett, Jordan, Ioane, J Barrett, Telea, Mo’unga, Smith; De Groot, Taylor, Lomax, Retallick, S Barrett, Frizell, Cane (capt), Savea
Replacements: Taukei’aho, Williams, Laulala, Whitelock, Papalii, Christie, McKenzie, Lienert-Brown
SOUTH AFRICA: Willemse, Arendse, Kriel, De Allende, Kolbe, Pollard, De Klerk; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi (capt), Du Toit, Vermeulen
Replacements: Fourie, Nche, Nyakane, Kleyn, Snyman, Smith, Wiese, Le Roux