South Africa have won the Rugby World Cup after a 32-12 win over England in Yokohama. It was the boot of Handre Pollard that proved decisive as he kicked six penalties before late tries from Lukhanyo Am and Cheslin Kolbe secured the win. It means the Springboks equal New Zealand’s record of three World Cup wins and they become the first team to win the World Cup having lost a game in the pool phase, after their opening game defeat to the All Blacks.
From the opening kickoff, South Africa tried to smother England with their physical approach. The two sides traded penalty kicks, and the early loss of Kyle Sinckler proved a body blow to England. South Africa themselves lost Lood De Jager to injury before halftime, as Pollard and Farrell added another penalty apiece before South Africa forced two late penalties on the brink of halftime to edge the Springboks 12-6 ahead.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with England struggling to find a way around South Africa’s green wall. Pollard and Farrell continued to trade kicks with Duane Vermeulen as South Africa continued to dominate at the breakdown. A brilliant moment of creativity from Am and Makazole Mapimpi opened England up to cross the line for the crucial score and go 25-12 ahead. England were forced to take risks, as Kolbe stole away to cross for a late try to complete the scoring.
South Africa through the tournament wasn’t always easy on the eye; flying in the face of a tournament that has been dominated by off load play. That said, their defense was exceptional and caps a remarkable turnaround for a side that were down and out 18 months ago. South Africa have regrouped and never looked back after their opening game loss to New Zealand. The critical pool game saw them dominate Italy 49-3 before their smothering defense shut down hosts Japan in the last eight and overcame a shaky semifinal performance against Wales to book their final place.
As for England, this proved a game too far, as they couldn’t recapture the form that saw them dominate Australia in the quarterfinal and take out hot favorites in New Zealand in the semifinal. Eddie Jones has a young team; the bulk of whom can go again at France 2023. However, the night ultimately belonged to Siya Kolisi as South Africa’s captain hoisted the Webb Ellis Trophy into the Yokohama sky.