It can be said that the South Africans have a knack of winning the Webb Ellis Cup every 12 years. The script was perfectly written. Siya Kolisi would play his 50th test match in the final against the same opponent he had faced in his first game as captain of the Springboks. A nation that had been plagued with tremendous division and who were desperate for a victory in a sporting event, would rely on the very same competition that aided in ushering in the age of democracy. The Springboks aimed to write history and create unity – stronger together was not a declaration but a mission.
After losing the opening match to the mighty All Blacks, many had written the Boks off as possible title contenders as no rugby team that had lost a match during the group stages had ever gone on to win the World Cup. It turned out, that the same pundits would not have predicted that Japan would finish on top of Pool A as they had. The loss to New Zealand meant that the team in green and gold would end up playing the hosts in the quarter final and were placed on the more favourable side of the knock-out rounds. Wales was not an easy opponent to face in the semi-final but a superb kicking game by Handre Pollard resulted in a win for the South Africans by just three points.
The Springboks showed their strength upfront throughout the tournament and Rassie Erasmus made it clear that the forward pack was key as the bench continuously consisted of a six/two split in favour of the forwards. This proved to be the dominating force of the final which was played on the 2 November 2019, at the Yokohama International Stadium. South Africa were unbelievably powerful in the scrum, using their penalties to put points on the board and gain territory. Their defense was solid which meant that England would come agonizingly close to the try line but were prevented from claiming the five points. In the second half of the match, two tries were scored on either wing; the first by Makazole Mapimpi in the 66th minute and the second by Cheslin Kolbe to seal the victory for the African side. In the dying minutes, it was obvious who would be taking the Cup home, but the Boks continued their professional performance with it ending 32-12 in favour of South Africa.
What stands out about this group of players, is not just their work ethic on the field, but their determination to make their success count off the park as well. Before departing for Japan, the Boks together with Coach Rassie Erasmus took the time to greet fans and sign jerseys. The initiative to have South Africans on the back of player’s shirts was a stroke of genius which got fans to submit selfies showcasing themselves sporting the famous kit. This team literally bore a nation on their backs and made it known how much they appreciated the support of the fans back home. Rassie Eramus and Siya Kolisi personified humility in every interview and the public knew that they were sincere as this was their attitude even when the cameras were off and they asked for autographs at the most inopportune times.
One could not have scripted a better ending to Rassie Eramus’ reign as coach of the Spingboks. He also picked up the award for Best Coach at the World Rugby Awards Ceremony on Sunday 3 November 2019. In accepting the award, Rassie said that a combination of hard work, luck and destiny that led to the success of his team. Flanker Pieter-Steph Du Toit picked up the award for the Men’s 15 Player of the Year, whilst the Springboks bagged the award for Team of the Year.
Sunday, November 3, 2019
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