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South Africa win Rugby World Cup

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Via Financial Times

South Africa outmuscled, out-thought and outplayed England to confound the pundits and win their third Rugby World Cup 32-12 in Tokyo on Saturday.

Siya Kolisi, the first black man to captain the Springboks and lift the World Cup, paid tribute to his multiracial team and told the capacity crowd that anything was possible if people from different backgrounds and races worked together.

After playing smart, aggressive rugby to suffocate defending champions New Zealand in the semi-finals last weekend, England were the overwhelming favourites to win their first World Cup since 2003.

South Africa, on the other hand, had ground out a dour 19-16 victory over Wales to book their place in the final — a performance so uninspiring that most rugby experts felt the Springboks would struggle to contain a rampant England.

But the Springboks, who won the tournament in 1995 and 2007, dominated the rucks and mauls and hammered the English scrum. England struggled to get a toehold in the game but, remarkably, still managed to stay in touch, trailing 12-6 at the break.

Both teams suffered early setbacks. England’s tight head prop Kyle Sinckler had to leave the field, dazed and confused, when, shortly after the start, he collided with teammate Maro Itoje’s elbow. The Boks then lost Lood de Jager, the lock forward, after he injured his shoulder in attempting to stop a charging Billy Vuniploa.

South Africa's Cheslin Kolbe breaks past England's Owen Farrell, left, and Joe Marler to score his side's second try during the Rugby World Cup final at International Yokohama Stadium between England and South Africa in Yokohama, Japan, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
© AP

In the second half, however, South Africa’s sheer physical dominance began to tell. The Boks, through fly half Handre Pollard, were leading 19-12 with 13 minutes left on the clock when South Africa buried English hopes.

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Derided as a one-dimensional and boring side, South Africa put the result beyond doubt with a piece of attacking brilliance. Makazole Mapimpi gathered his own kick ahead before passing inside to Lukhanyo Am. Am, the outside centre who along with his midfield partner Damian de Allende had helped stymie England’s rare forays into Bok territory, passed the ball back to the wing who sprinted for the line.

Any faint hopes of an England comeback were snuffed out by the diminutive Cheslin Kolbe in the 76th minute. The winger, probably the most exciting attacking back in world rugby, collected an immaculately timed pass by Pieter-Steph Du Toit, skipped past a couple of despairing English tackles and dashed over the try line to seal the thrashing.

South Africa’s triumph is even more remarkable when their recent history is considered. Under Allister Coetzee South Africa’s rankings went into freefall, losing even to Italy, as they struggled for consistency and, often, a game plan.

But when Rassie Erasmus was lured back home from Munster, South Africa began to rebuild their reputation as a rugby superpower. They beat a vastly improved England in a home Test series and then stunned the All Blacks at home.

They hammered a hapless Australia and then drew with their arch-rivals in New Zealand in Wellington this year to win the Southern Hemisphere’s Rugby Championship.

Before the final, Eddie Jones, lauded as the craftiest coach in World Cup, described Erasmus as a crafty coach. Erasmus lived up to his rival’s description, out-thinking England and masterminding a staggering win.

Emiko Tokumoto, a Japanese office worker who was wearing a Springbok shirt said she had supported South Africa since taking her honeymoon there more than two decades ago. “This is why we love South Africa, even when they are not expected to win, they have some extra power.”

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Additional reporting by Leo Lewis in Tokyo

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