South Africa edge past New Zealand to win record fourth Rugby World Cup title

Record-breakers: Dominant South Africa are the first team ever to win the Rugby World Cup four times (PA)
Record-breakers: Dominant South Africa are the first team ever to win the Rugby World Cup four times (PA)

Siya Kolisi scaled rarefied heights in Paris as South Africa edged past New Zealand 12-11 for their captain to lift a second-straight Rugby World Cup crown.

Handre Pollard’s four penalties somehow proved just enough for the Springboks to defend their 2019 title, for a record fourth World Cup triumph.

New Zealand captain Sam Cane became the first man to be sent off in a World Cup final, for a head-high shot on Jesse Kriel.

The Springboks are the newest Parisian dynasty, and king Kolisi their figurehead. He must be anointed, crowned, hailed to the heavens.

The 32-year-old from township Zwide, the first-ever black Springbok captain, Kolisi is also just the second man to lift the Webb Ellis Cup twice, after New Zealand great Richie McCaw, who did it in 2011 and 2015.

The All Blacks had Shannon Frizell sin-binned just two minutes in, while the Boks were hit with yellows for Kolisi and Cheslin Kolbe.

All Blacks full-back Beauden Barrett ran in the first-ever try against South Africa in a World Cup final, and 14-man New Zealand came so close to pulling off the near impossible.

Trusty fly-half Handre Pollard kicked all 12 of South Africa's World Cup final points (PA)
Trusty fly-half Handre Pollard kicked all 12 of South Africa's World Cup final points (PA)

South Africa looked spent at least four times in this contest, but somehow always found the extra tackle, the extra drive, the decisive intervention.

While captain Cane will be left to lick the wounds of his needless red card, skipper Kolisi carved his name in stone into rugby’s very annals.

The Boks’ 2019 triumph in Japan changed rugby forever, giving young black children in South Africa their first set of Test role models.

This victory in France means no one will ever forget Kolisi’s name, or his legacy. And for the Boks as a whole, add 2023 to their 2007 World Cup victory at the Stade de France.

New Zealand kept South Africa scoreless for the entire second half, but still the Boks battled through.

To have faced Scotland, Ireland, France, England and New Zealand and still to have triumphed speaks volumes about this squad’s tenacity, depth and spirit.

Rugby director Rassie Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber speak of the higher purpose of vying to inspire a nation where many live almost devoid of hope.

Kolisi is the ray of light for that hope, the beacon to match that torch atop the Eiffel Tower. Theirs is an unmatched triumph.

New Zealand captain Sam Cane is the first man to be sent off in the World Cup final (AP)
New Zealand captain Sam Cane is the first man to be sent off in the World Cup final (AP)

A first-half disciplinary horror-show saw the All Blacks heap untold pressure upon themselves.

Frizell was fortunate not to receive a red himself for his nasty attempted crocodile roll on Bongi Mbonambi, just two minutes into the contest.

The Boks lost their only fit specialist hooker, who had already been trying to keep a knee problem at bay.

The All Blacks lost their blindside flanker for 10 minutes, and he was lucky to be allowed back after his yellow card.

Pollard kept his cool and slotted two quick penalties to put the Boks into a 6-0 lead, but New Zealand managed to avoid leaking a try during Frizell’s sin bin.

Richie Mo’unga put New Zealand on the board with a penalty, only for Pollard to slot his third goal.

And then came Cane’s moment of madness, lining up Kriel and still smashing him square in the face with his shoulder.

A stonewall red, and the officials did not need long to upgrade the initial yellow. Pollard and Mo’unga traded penalties again, to leave South Africa leading 12-6 at the break.

The Boks butchered one fine scoring chance after half-time, and were unlucky with another.

Kolisi raced down the right flank and should have given a pass, but his hesitation saw the chance escape their grasp.

Kurt-Lee Arendse then swept in from nowhere to reach Damian Willemse’s grubber, but lost the ball trying to scoop up and finish across the line.

Just when South Africa expected to go in for the kill though, it was their turn to fall off the disciplinary tightrope.

This victory means no one will ever forget Kolisi’s name, or his legacy

Kolisi collided head-to-head with Ardie Savea, as the Kiwi No8 landed on claiming a high ball.

His yellow card was inevitable, as was the review. The officials again made the correct call in leaving the punishment at no more than a sin-binning.

In a flash, the All Blacks thought they had stormed back into the contest with one of the best tries at the World Cup.

Mo’unga arced through with a stunning outside break before popping off to Aaron Smith to dart home.

A knock-on at the lineout chalked off the score to deny the All Blacks, but they refused to relent in the Boks’ 22.

Ian Foster’s men put three kickable penalties to the corner, and that persistence ultimately paid dividend.

Jordie Barrett’s howitzer wide pass allowed the impressive Mark Telea to cut in and occupy the Boks defenders, then pop out a pass for Beauden Barrett to scoot home.

This time there was to be no stopping the score. And as the clock ticked into the final quarter, the Boks led by just one point.

The Springboks looked tired, their punishing exploits across the most testing of tournaments taking its clear toll.

But then replacement flanker Kwagga Smith wrestled the ball clean off Will Jordan, and the Boks were able to relieve the pressure.

The total mayhem of the final 10 minutes could be encapsulated no better than wing Kolbe attempting a 50-metre drop goal that fell wide and short in the middle of the All Black 22.

Kolbe was then sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, ending his night prematurely – and leaving both teams with 14 men for the final eight minutes.

Beauden Barrett scored the only try of the game to set up a grandstand finish in Paris (Getty Images)
Beauden Barrett scored the only try of the game to set up a grandstand finish in Paris (Getty Images)

The distraught wing spent the remainder of the contest with his face in his hands on the bench.

New Zealand ran everything, from everywhere, desperate to turn the tide.

The indomitable Pieter-Steph du Toit scrambled and smashed several vital tackles, the Boks ground through a scrum – and over the line South Africa went.

Kolisi and Co crawled their weary bodies through the finishing tape.

But at the end of perhaps the most punishing World Cup challenge, no one can argue with their brutal, battling, compelling body of work and another stunning success.

Kolbe could breathe a sigh of relief, take his face from his hands and finally enjoy his 30th birthday.

What a party that lies ahead for the scrum-capped wing with the jet heels. For the Springboks, for all Africa, what a celebration.