It was another one-point thriller in which the Boks were held pointless in the second half after twice being reduced to 14-men against a New Zealand side that itself played 50 minutes with 14 after the red-carding of their captain, Sam Cane.

It meant a fourth world title for Siya Kolisi and his men at South Africa’s eighth attempt in a match that some had billed as the biggest in the 150 years of international rugby history – the No 1 (SA) played No 2 (NZ) to settle – for a few years at least – the title of champion of world champions.

New Zealand’s effort was hampered by their own indiscipline – two players in the sin bin in the first half and the second of those upgraded to a red for a high tackle by Cane on Jesse Kriel in the 28th minute.

Kolisi also spent 10 minutes in the bin for a high tackle on Ardie Savea but was saved from a red by the fact he was bent in the tackle and his contact was indirect.

The conditions were far from world champion although the rain eased as the evening wore on. The European late autumn had brought rain all week and the match was played in persistent rain with treacherous footing and an even more traitorously slippery ball.

Handre Pollard kicked four penalty goal - all the Boks' points.

Handre Pollard kicked four penalty goal - all the Boks' points.

It meant the game devolved into the rugby version of trench warfare with aerial bomb and close quarter bayonet work via scrum and maul dovetailing between close quarter forward carries and only occasional attempts to move the ball wide.

Discipline in defence and accuracy from the kicking tee were the keys to victory and on both counts the Boks dominated the opening half.

The cool-as-ice Handre Pollard nailed four from four – one of them sneaking over the bar from 50 metres -  as the All Blacks’ discipline creaked under the Springbok pressure.

The first was for a neck roll on Bongi Mbonambi in the third minute by Shannon Frizzel that led to both players leaving the field – Mbonambi never to return from an injured knee and the All Black loose forward for 10 minutes in the sin bin.

He was followed to the sidelines in the 28th minute by Cane whose yellow card was upgraded to a red for a direct contact – with force – to the head of Kriel as the centre tried to run the ball out of defence after an attacking All Black lineout had been turned over for a second time in quick succession.

The Springboks put in a massive defensive display against the All Blacks.

The Springboks put in a massive defensive display against the All Blacks.

The Springboks were doing an admirable job of slowing down New Zealand ball at the breakdown with vital turnovers won in defence by replacement hooker Deon Fourie and in attack by Duane Vermeulen – which led to the most straightforward of Pollard’s penalties.

New Zealand’s points came from two easy shots from within the 22 by flyhalf Richie Mo’unga – both for offside offences as the green wall refused to bend with the most important tackle of the half coming from Kurt-Lee Arendse as he pulled down Rieko Ioane in the Boks’ right hand corner.

Despite their disadvantage the All Blacks made had the best of the third quarter – aided by Kolisi’s dismissal in the 45th minute. They scored the only try of the match in the 58th minute when Beauden Barrett dived over in the left hand corner shortly after an Aaron Smith “try” in the same place had been ruled out for an earlier knock on.

Mo’unga’s conversion was wide leaving the Boks holding onto a one-point lead as the game tipped over into the final quarter, then the final 10 minutes, then the final five, then the final minute with a scrum to defend in the 80th minute. They did it. History was made.


Springboks 12 (12) – Penalty goals: Handre Pollard (4).

New Zealand 11 (6) – Try: Beauden Barrett. Penalty goals: Richie Mo’unga (2).