2. Oh, for the purist and the analyst the Springboks’ midfield maul on 60 minutes was poetry. In 2011 Erasmus, as technical adviser to the Boks at the World Cup, suggested the team employs a midfield maul should the quarter-final require a potential penalty and three points in the closing minutes. The Bok leadership rejected the idea. Not this time, with Erasmus the boss. It is hard enough to defend a lineout maul, but to defend an unstructured midfield lineout maul is impossible. It resulted in a penalty that took South Africa out to a nine-point lead, and from there they were never challenged.
3. The Boks, in two World Cup finals, had never scored a try. They had beaten the All Blacks 15-12 in 1995 and England 15-6 in 2007. It took 66 minutes in the 2019 final for the Boks to finally get a five pointer through Makazole Mapimpi. Malcolm Marx threw a great pass to Mapimpi, who kicked ahead, Lukhanyo Am gathered the bounce, offloaded back to Mapimpi and the game was done. Mapimpi had been superb all tournament and his historic try in the final was his 14th in 14 Tests.
4. The Boks defence, collectively, and player for player, was immense. England just couldn’t find a way through. England, a week earlier against the All Blacks, made 401 metres on attack and six clean linebreaks. They made an average of 2.8 metres on each attack. Against the Boks they could only make 201 metres, two clean line breaks and make 1.6 metres on attack. England were smashed in the collisions. They just couldn’t handle the strength of the Boks and the most telling period was when England took the ball through 25 phases over a three-minute period close to halftime. The reward was a paltry three points. It was the closest they ever got to the Bok tryline.
5. Cheslin Kolbe’s magical feet produced the fitting finish in the 73rd minute. Kolbe, the Boks’ right wing wizard, stood up England captain Owen Farrell with a pause, inside step and then explosive sprint that left England’s ponderous forwards for dead. It gave the Boks a 20-point lead and even the engraver knew there was no way back for England, as SA’s name was being engraved on the Webb Ellis Cup long before the final whistle.
1. The first scrum came almost immediately (90 seconds) and it was a wonderful opportunity for both teams to strike a psychological blow. As the ball went in, there was a pause as the scrum stood stock still, but then the green side started moving forwards. That strong Bok scrum set the tone for the rest of the game. There was one England scrum that went forwards when they caught the Boks unawares, but for the most part, the English were given a scrumming lesson.
2. Early on, Handre Pollard had a golden opportunity to kick the Boks into a 3-0 lead after his forwards had earned a scrum penalty. But he steered the kick wide of the right upright and the look on coach Rassie Erasmus’ face said it all. Squandered points in a final can cost you the game... And there was the worry that Pollard’s confidence would take a knock. But when the Bok pack won another penalty, Pollard lined up the kick and struck it true, abolishing any doubts that he would have an off day with the boot.
3. After halftime the two teams traded penalties and then the English went on the attack. They had been subdued in the first half, and at times they were reckless as they tried to get their attacking game going, on an occasion moving the ball from behind their own tryline. At last they got into the Boks’ 22 and they threw the kitchen sink at scoring what might have been a decisive try, but the Boks’ defence stood firm. Somehow England were kept out and they never again threatened the Bok tryline.
4. One of the key match-ups prior to kickoff was the much-anticipated battle of the colossal No 8s, Billy Vunipola and Duane Vermeulen. They are strong, uncompromising players, and both were tasked with leading their teams’ physical challenge. Vunipola was no shrinking violet, but there was a moment in the second half when Vermeulen struck a psychological blow. The 33-year-old-had the luxury of a nice run up and he thundered into his opposite number, shunting him backwards. It was telling moment delivered by the player of the match.
5. Let’s be frank, Kolbe had no right to score the try he did. He was boxed in as he lined up the England corner flag, with Farrell honing in on him but.... then came a shimmy and a sham and Farrell was left spluttering in Kolbe’s wake. If there is one moment in this match that I will not tire of replaying, it is of a sulky Farrell laying spread-eagled on the turf, thumping the pitch in annoyance at having been shown a clean pair of heels.