TODAY is the one-year anniversary of the Springboks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup final triumph.
I was lucky enough to be in Japan for the seven weeks, covering the tournament as a member of the official Rugby World Cup website reporting team.
The 90-minute journey from my hotel in the district of Toranomon in Tokyo to Yokohama for the Rugby World Cup final made me somewhat anxious.
I was a bit concerned that on the day of the final, there may be just more fans than usual, which would make me late. And so it was – I arrived about 35 minutes behind schedule at the Kozukue Station, and then there was still a 10-minute walk to the International Stadium Yokohama.
But an interview with Africa Melane on Cape Talk radio back home calmed me down.
And listening back to it now, it sounds like I am ready to take over the oracle mantle from Paul the Octopus from 2010 Fifa World Cup fame!
I spoke about how Handre Pollard’s goal-kicking was going to be vital, and that the Springboks needed more than just the forwards that kept things tight in the semi-final win over Wales, including a few special plays – cue the midfield maul to set up a penalty …
I added that Cheslin Kolbe must be put into space by the loose forwards and inside backs, and that he would beat any defender 10 times out of 10 in a one-on-one battle. And Owen Farrell will never forget that!
Africa stated that the Boks were underdogs, and I was not so sure. I made the point that the Boks had not yet shown their full hand before the final, with lots of kicking against Wales, while I felt that England had already played their final in the semi-final win over the All Blacks.
My worry was, were the Boks actually going to “play rugby”? In a World Cup final? Didn’t they just. They put multiple phases together from the opening phases, and Kyle Sinckler going down after just two minutes was a disheartening blow to Eddie Jones’ team.
Pollard missed his first penalty at goal, though, and the match was up in the air at 6-3 to South Africa around the 30-minute mark, when England laid siege to the Bok tryline. Almost 30 phases later, Siya Kolisi’s men had repelled wave after wave of attacks, and the English left with just three points.
The scrum dominance won the Boks a few more penalties, and then the moment of magic arrived… Makazole Mapimpi’s chip over the top, and Lukhanyo Am’s languid pass back to his former Border teammate will forever be remembered, and Cheslin Kolbe’s dance routine past Farrell finished things off in style.
Some of the South African journalists – who shall remain nameless – were in tears at the final whistle. But while there were no waterworks from me, I paused for reflection after Pollard kicked the ball into touch for the last time. The Springboks had done it!
I had to dash down soon after the on-field ceremony for the post-match press conference, and on my way, I was able to get a close look at the Webb Ellis Cup, which was being held by Bok media manager Rayaan Adriaanse.
Seeing Kolisi walking into the press conference room with the trophy was another special moment in the history of the sport in our country, and Erasmus also took a few long looks at the golden trophy.
There was still work to be done after that, and we had to operate quickly as the last train back to Tokyo was almost at the station.
But fortunately for me, the Boks invited the South African media to the team hotel afterwards, and I decided to make the hour-long journey to the Hilton opposite the Tokyo Disneyland after midnight.
And it was absolutely worth it!