We can talk all day and night for a week about the Springboks’ phenomenal Rugby World Cup defeat of the All Blacks in Paris but Mike Greenaway highlights five salient topics to come out of the 12-11 result.
When Handre Pollard could not make the initial World Cup selection because of a calf injury, the speculation was that he would nevertheless end up in France playing for the Boks. And when Malcolm Marx suffered a calamitous knee injury, Pollard was hastily called across the English Channel. The result? Pollard did not miss a kick in the tournament — 4/4 against Tonga, 2/2 against France, 3/3 against England, and four/4 in the final.
The Malmesbury Missile
The little town in the Western Cape must have been rocking on Saturday night as one of their finest, Pieter-Steph du Toit, turned in an astonishing performance. He obliterated anything in black on 28 occasions in an exhibition of defence that will have had many an All Black reaching for the Deep Heat on Sunday morning.
House of Cards
The Stade de France saw a host of players marching to the sin bin, all for fair reason, but just what impact did it have on the game? The Kiwis lost Shannon Frizell for ten minutes and then Sam Cane ten minutes before halftime after his shoulder collided with the face of Jesse Kriel — he should take up boxing with that steel jaw — but the loss of their captain galvanized the All Blacks to play at a higher level. Siya Kolisi also received his marching orders, and towards the end of the game, Cheslin Kolbe slapped down a pass. He could not bear to watch the rest of the game, pulled his jersey over his head, and prayed. His prayers were answered.
Gamble pays off
When the 7-1 split was announced, it meant that Rassie Erasmus had gone to the casino. But instead of choosing red or black he put South Africa’s money on green. The big risk was that a back would get injured early in the game —the biggest worry was that Faf de Klerk or Handre Pollard would go down early — but it turned out to be forward that was crocked a few minutes into the game. Bongi Mbonambi limped off and Deon Fourie was immense in the loose but poor in the lineouts. This was always the issue with calling up a flyhalf (Pollard) for injured Malcolm Marx, although the other side of the coin is that Pollard kicked the Boks to victory.
I cannot speak highly enough about the utter commitment shown by Cheslin Kolbe. Built like a pocket rocket, he fired his body into collisions with scant regard for life or limb. Kolbe is courage personified and he could not have celebrated his 30th birthday better. Lest we forget, the Boks would not have made it to the semi-finals had it not been for his outrageous charge down of a French conversion attempt. No other player in the world would have bothered to have a go, but there is only one Cheslin Kolbe and he saved the Boks’ skin.