CAPE TOWN – How do you win a World Cup? If current trends are the barometer, then you have the most imposing lineout and you have the most accurate goalkicker. Cue Eben Etzebeth, the Springboks’ premier lineout specialist and Handre Pollard, the Boks’ starting flyhalf and goalkicker.
You also have the best defence and no team has come close to matching the 1999 champions Australia, who conceded just one try in six matches.
Outside of the inaugural World Cup in 1987, when the All Blacks monstered every team and averaged 50 points per game, penalty goals have outweighed tries in the semi-finals and finals in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015.
At the past seven World Cups, only on two occasions (1995 and 2015) have more points been scored from tries (55) than penalties (51). Add the drop-goal, which has decided so many playoff matches, and specifically the 1995 and 2003 finals, and the value of the kicker is emphasised.
Those drop-kick magical moments included:
- Rob Andrew against Australia in 1995’s quarter-final,
- Joel Stransky against the All Blacks in the 1995 final,
- Jannie de Beer versus England in the 1999 quarter-final,
- Stephen Larkham versus South Africa in the 1999 semi-final,
- Jonny Wilkinson versus Australia in the 2003 final,
- Wilkinson again versus France in the 2007 quarter-final,
- Dan Carter versus the Boks in the 2015 semi-final and
- Carter versus Australia in the 2015 final.
The lineout has become the biggest attacking weapon for teams and fortunately the Boks’ lineout is a leader. The Boks’ very tall loose forwards in Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen give them four lineout options, while Siya Kolisi has also been used effectively to win lineout ball.
At the 2003 World Cup, the scrum and lineout were comparable in effectiveness, with both set pieces the source of 30% of tries respectively. In 2015, just 15% of tries came from scrum origin and 50% from the lineout. Turnover ball, opposition kicks, and penalties and free-kicks combined to complete method of scoring.
No team has won the World Cup when conceding more than 100 points in seven matches and no team has ever won the World Cup when losing a match in the group stages.
The All Blacks, when they won the World Cup in 1987, 2011 and 2015, scored the most points and the most tries, but in the other five World Cups played the winning team did not top either of these categories.
Here’s the scoring recipe of the winners of the eight World Cups, with the most dominant being the 1987 All Blacks, the 1999 Wallabies, England’s 2003 champions and the 2015 All Blacks. All four teams were considered the greatest on their generation:
1987 All Blacks: (6 matches) Average score: 50-9. Tries 43-4. Penalty goals 21.
2011 All Blacks: (seven matches) Average score 43-10. Tries. 40-8. Penalty goals 15.
2015 All Blacks: (seven matches) Average score 41-14. Tries 39-6. Penalty goals. 11
Historically, the most successful teams in the playoffs have been the four winners New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and England and expect one of the four to leave Japan as world champions.
New Zealand have won 14 from 19 playoff matches (74%), including three titles, Australia have won 12 from 18 (67%), including two titles, South Africa have won eight from 12 (67%), including two titles and England 9 from 15 (60%), for one title in 2003.