Dubai: South Africa upset the odds to down Eddie Jones’ England side 32-12 in the Rugby World Cup final at the Yokohama International Stadium in surprisingly comfortable fashion.
England thumped defending champions New Zealand in the semi-finals to enter the showpiece event as favourites while the Springboks scraped past Wales.
It looked likely that the English would be taking home the Webb Ellis trophy for a second time as Jones’ men on paper looked a level above their opposition on Saturday.
But an unshakeable South Africa had other ideas. From the first whistle, the Boks came out with intent to counter the hard-hitting England takes, and it was the Red Rose who had the first setback when Kyle Sinckler went off with a nasty head knock after only two minutes — ironically taking an elbow to the temple from his own player.
Handre Pollard was the key player for the Springboks as his six penalties negated the four from Owen Farrell’s boot for England.
A tactical and tense first half saw South Africa go 12-6 up, and Pollard and Farrell continued to trade penalty blows until late in the second half, when the Boks broke free.
They finally seemed to break England’s hope and hearts as Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe crossed the line for converted tries and secure the trophy.
Their win continues the numeric tradition of South Africa triumphing in the tournament every 12 years, following successes in 1995 in their home country, and in 2007 in France.
It could have been so different had England capitalised on their sustained pressure towards the end of the first half. Try as they might, Mako Vunipola and Courtney Lawes could not find a way through and England had to settle for a Farrell penalty as they tried to keep within touching distance of the men in green.
Wave upon wave of attack was repelled on the South African line as England desperately looked for the breakthrough, roared on by a passionate crowd of mostly English and Japanese fans.
But then came the brilliant tries from Mapimpi and Kolbe and South Africa roared of into the distance and England were left waiting once again for the ultimate triumph.
When Siya Kolisi — the first black South African to win the World Cup — raised the Webb Ellis trophy, tears of joy were flowing both among the Springboks players and the Japanese fans who have taken rugby to their heart and will long be remembered as the real winners of this tournament.
Man of the Match Duane Vermeulen said the players had kept the inspirational thought from coach Rassie Erasmus in mind that they were not just playing for themselves but for the entire Rainbow Nation.
Vermeulen, part of an impressive loose forward trio that included captain Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit, said: “We were doing it for each other but also for 57 million people back home in South Africa.
“We wanted to be consistent as a team. We wanted to create hope in the end and hopefully we achieved that tonight.”
“We didn’t start well,” England captain Owen Farrell said. “We probably had a disappointing first half ... we showed the fight we had in the second half.”
Jones, who helped South Africa win their last World Cup in 2007 against England, said that his side had been unable to get into the game against an aggressive Springboks side. “We just struggled to get in the game. The effort from players was outstanding but they struggled to get on the front foot,” Jones said.
“I can’t fault the preparation of the players. They worked hard the whole World Cup and played with a lot of passion, but just weren’t good enough.
“Congratulations to South Africa.”
Factfile on South Africa
Pool B: New Zealand 13-23, Namibia 57-3, Italy 49-3, Canada 66-7
Quarter-final: Japan 26-3
Semi-final: Wales 19-16
Final: England 32-12
Tries: 6 — Mapimpi, 3 — Kolbe, Mbonambi, Reinach, 2 — Am, Brits, De Allende, Gelant, 1 — De Klerk, Du Toit, Kolisi, Louw, Malherbe, Marx, Nkosi, Snyman, Steyn, Willemse.
Conversions: 14 — E. Jantjies, 9 — Pollard
Penalties: 16 — Pollard
Drop goal: Pollard
World Cup record
1987: banned because of apartheid, 1991: banned because of apartheid, 1995 — champions, 1999 — third, 2003 — quarter-finals, 2007 — champions, 2011 — quarter-finals, 2015 — third, 2019 — champions.
— With inputs from agencies