Two years on from the Springboks’ incredible 32-12 triumph over England in Yokohama, Oliver Keohane reflects on five magnificent, match-winning moments from the Boks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup winning campaign.
The stars aligned for South African rugby in Japan in 2019. It was clear that Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber had something special going with that squad of Springbok players, and the presence of the team throughout the tournament demanded positivity and hope from the country.
Two years on from Siya Kolisi lifting the Web Ellis trophy, it only seems right to reflect on some of the magical moments that won the Springboks the World Cup.
5. That 50 metre maul
The crisis loss to Japan in the 2015 Rugby World Cup meant that there was always going to be an extra edge and angst when the Boks faced off against the tournament hosts of 2019. Though South Africa were emphatic 41-7 winners in a warmup match against Japan before the World Cup began, the dynamic differed hugely when they met again in the quarter-final, nearly two months later, with the hosts having beaten Ireland, Scotland and Samoa to make their way into the knockout stages. The Springboks led by only five points to three at halftime, and on 63 minutes tension remained with the Boks only 11 points clear at 14-3. But then came perhaps the biggest maul in Rugby World Cup history, which saw the Bok pack travel 50 metres up the field before Malcolm Marx broke away and offloaded to Faf de Klerk for the match-securing try.
4. Damian De Allende’s semi-final game changer
Wales was always going to be one of South Africa’s hardest games at the World Cup. In Chasing the Sun, Rassie Erasmus revealed that it was in fact the hardest game for the Springboks, given how similar the Welsh style of play was to theirs, and how tough the Welsh players are. There was never going to be anything pretty in this attritional game of Chess, and the 19-16 final score reflected that. With the game tied at 9-9, Damian De Allende broke the deadlock and took the Springboks into the lead with a superb individual try that was so out of kilter with a match determined otherwise by kicking. Skip to 1:17 below for De Allende’s try.
3. Pollard’s final-securing match winner
While De Allende’s try should have sent South Africa on their way to the final, Wales were true to Erasmus’ evaluation of their toughness, and responded just seven minutes later with a try in the corner from winger Josh Adams. Leigh Halfpenny converted a tough kick to level the scores 16-16. On the 75th minute though, the Springboks were awarded a penalty a couple of meters outside of the Welsh 22 and Pollard stepped up with equanimity to put the ball straight through the posts, on the angle, and book the Boks their ticket into the World Cup final. Skip to 2:17 in video above for Pollard’s penalty kick.
2. Cheslin Kolbe cuts through England and Owen Farrell
Kolbe’s try was more nail-in-the-coffin than it was match-winner, though the magnificence of his individual effort must be lost on nobody. The Boks were comfortably in the lead in the 73rd minute, at 25-12, when Kolbe received the ball on the right wing with five English defenders cross-covering him towards the touchline, led by captain Owen Farrell. In true Kolbe fashion, a burst of acceleration took him clear of the first line of defence, before he just as quickly cut inside to leave Farrell flailing and sped past the last defender to add five points and hammer the final nail into England’s coffin. Kolbe’s ability to work such magic in such close quarters makes him the remarkable player he is, and he did it on the biggest stage in 2019.
1.Mapimpi and Am combine for history-making try
To pick just five glorious moments from the Springboks 2019 World Cup campaign is to leave out many a brilliant individual and team effort over the entire seven weeks. But without a doubt, the most spectacular moment must be Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am combining for the try that affirmed all the Springbok dominance over England in the World Cup final, and took them out of reach for the final minutes of the match. With the Boks leading 18-12 on 65 minutes, and neither side having scored a try, Mapimpi sped down his left wing and popped an up-and-under off his inside foot which Lukhanyo Am blitzed past Ben Youngs to collect, before just as quickly popping the ball back to his left to allow Mapimpi a clear run in under the posts. Before Mapimpi’s try, the Springboks were yet to ever score a try in a Rugby World Cup final, and making the occasion even more special was that in Am and Mapimpi, two players of colour combined for the Boks’ first ever World Cup final try, and ten minutes later Cheslin Kolbe would cross the line for their second.