Rugby World Cup 2023 Final: A Historic Rivalry Revived

Caption: Nelson Mandela hands Francois Pienaar the Webb Ellis Cup in 1995 It's a clash of rugby titans as New Zealand and South Africa prepare to battle it out in the 2023 Rugby World Cup...

Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar Caption: Nelson Mandela hands Francois Pienaar the Webb Ellis Cup in 1995

It's a clash of rugby titans as New Zealand and South Africa prepare to battle it out in the 2023 Rugby World Cup Final. Both teams are vying to make history by becoming the first nation to win the coveted trophy for the fourth time. But this final is more than just a showdown on the pitch; it's a continuation of a long-standing rivalry between these two rugby powerhouses.

A Storied History

New Zealand and South Africa have a deep-rooted rugby history that spans decades. The two countries, despite their geographical differences, share a common passion for the sport. "We're frontier-type societies; one is a tiny bunch of islands on the other side of the world, one is a little spot on the end of Africa," shared former South Africa international Bobby Skinstad.

Rugby has served as both a unifying force and a means to prove themselves against the colonial powers from which the game was inherited. This rivalry has only intensified over the years, with each chapter adding another layer to their storied relationship.

The 1995 Final

South Africa's first taste of Rugby World Cup glory came in 1995 when they hosted the tournament. In a fiercely contested final, the All Blacks, led by the unstoppable force of Jonah Lomu, were the favorites to win. However, South Africa held their ground, exchanging penalties and drop-goals with their opponents.

The match went into extra time, with a drop-goal by South Africa's Joel Stransky securing their victory and clinching the iconic Webb Ellis Cup. The triumph was celebrated not only for its sporting significance but also for the unifying presence of Nelson Mandela, who handed over the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar while wearing the once-reviled Springbok badge.

Twickenham Match

More recently, South Africa delivered a crushing blow to the All Blacks, inflicting their heaviest defeat in history with a 35-7 victory at Twickenham. It was a stunning upset that ended New Zealand's 11-match unbeaten run. In their 105 previous encounters, the All Blacks have emerged victorious 62 times, while the Springboks have claimed 39 wins, with four draws in the mix.

New Zealand vs South Africa at Rugby World Cups Caption: Head-to-head matches at Rugby World Cups

World Cup Final Wins

For South Africa, their 1995 triumph marked the beginning of a 12-year wait before securing their second World Cup title with a triumph over England in 2007. Another 12 years later, Siya Kolisi lifted the trophy once again after a dominant victory over England in Japan in 2019.

New Zealand, on the other hand, claimed their first World Cup victory in 1987 as co-hosts. They had to wait 24 years for their second triumph, which they achieved as hosts once again with a nail-biting one-point win over France in 2011. In 2015, the All Blacks repeated their success, defeating Australia convincingly.

This year, New Zealand has the chance to make history as the first nation to win three consecutive Rugby World Cups. It's a feat that South Africa is determined to thwart. "Our country looks at New Zealand, and it irritates us that they've been able to go back-to-back in World Cups," admitted Bobby Skinstad.

Routes to the 2023 Final

Both teams have navigated a challenging path to reach the final. South Africa faced formidable opponents, including Scotland, France, and England, coming out on top in close encounters thanks to their resilience and determination. The All Blacks stumbled in the tournament opener against France but quickly bounced back with dominant performances against Italy, Ireland, and Argentina.

Potential Records

As the final approaches, there are several potential records on the line. New Zealand's Sam Whitelock could become the first player to secure three World Cup titles, having been a part of the victorious squads in 2011 and 2015. All Blacks winger Will Jordan is just one try away from becoming the highest-scoring player in a single World Cup, matching the records set by Jonah Lomu, Bryan Habana, and Julian Savea.

Additionally, the Barrett brothers, Jordie, Beauden, and Scott, could make history by all starting in the final for New Zealand. With Beauden already having played in a final in 2015, this would be a momentous occasion for the Barrett family. Meanwhile, South Africa aims to join New Zealand as the only nation to win back-to-back World Cups, with captain Siya Kolisi striving to emulate the legendary Richie McCaw.

The stage is set for a clash of rugby giants, where history will be made and rivalries will be reignited. Stay tuned on Saturday, 28th October, as New Zealand and South Africa battle it out in a bid to etch their names in rugby folklore.