So South Africa collected their third Rugby World Cup title by beating England 32-12 in the final in Yokohama.
The match-day 23 delivered in so many more ways than one and did everything that was asked of them. Here’s our South Africa match-day 23 rated in what was the game of their lives. They delivered:
15 — Willie le Roux — 7/10
When it counted, the erratic Le Roux put up his hand and played his best game of the World Cup. The fullback was missing in action for the better part of the World Cup but when SA needed tactical variety, high ball solidity and the left foot, he delivered in spades. He indeed saved his best for last.
14 — Cheslin Kolbe — 9/10
What can you say about the pocket rocket? Tackled like a Trojan, stepped England’s defence like he was a telephone booth and scored the try that sealed the third title. He has to be the player of the tournament.
13 — Lukhanyo Am — 8/10
Manu who? If there were fears he was going to be run over by Manu Tuilagi, he silenced his detractors with a sound performance defensively and provided the pass that led to Makazole Mapimpi’s try. SA have been screaming for a classy and creative 13 who can attack and defended with equal ease.
11 — Makazole Mapimpi — 10/10
Claimed high balls, chased those who thought they could get around him and, crucially, scored SA’s first ever try in a Rugby World Cup final. “D-Rex” has been a proper find for Johan “Rassie” Erasmus. He was gold for the Boks from start to finish.
10 — Handré Pollard — 8/10
Tactically, he was happy to let Faf de Klerk take charge from the base of the scrum, but when it came to his goal-kicking forte, he did what was asked of him. Sent nerves jangling when he missed the first penalty, but was flawless from the tee. The kind of 10 who can win and will win you a World Cup.
9 — Faf de Klerk — 10/10
The box kicks came off, the rush-up tackles came off and the passing was crisp. He simply could do no wrong when it counted.
Forwards — 10/10
8 — Duane Vermeulen — 10/10
Billy who? If that question was posed to Duane Vermeulen, he answered with a performance so dismissive it rendered England’s loose trio ineffective. He was a one-man show from the back of the scrum and single-handedly neutralised Sam Underhill and Tom Curry.
7 — Pieter-Steph du Toit — 8/10
Had one of his quieter games, but when the pack puts in such a collective shift, you can afford to drop standards a bit. His presence at the fringes and his much-improved rugby smarts prevented England’s forwards and Ben Youngs, who embarrassed him in 2016, from having their way.
6 — Siya Kolisi (Capt.) — 8/10
Tackled, tackled and tackled his way to the World Cup title. He led with aplomb and his post-match speech was top-class. He’s the first black captain to win a World Cup title. His legacy is secure.
5 — Lood de Jager — 7/10
Was starting to get into his stride before injury dealt with him, The low rating is based on the 20-odd minutes before his shoulder gave way.
4 — Eben Etzebeth — 9/10
Someone needed to keep Maro Itoje quiet and Etzebeth responded to that call. Owned the line-out and dominated the collisions.
3 — Frans Malherbe — 10/10
Scrummed the life out of Mako Vunipola. Was asked to scrum for his life and did exactly that.
2 — Bongi Mbonambi — 7/10
Wasn’t on for long enough to leave an impact, but was part of the scrums that broke the back of England’s early resistance.
1 — Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira — 10/10
Cometh the hour, cometh the man! He sent Kyle Sinckler and Dan Cole homewards to think again with the best ever scrumming performance ever seen in a World Cup final. He was the Boks’ most experienced forward and it showed.
16 — Malcolm Marx — 8/10
Imagine having the luxury of a Malcolm Marx coming off the bench and dominating the collisions. That’s exactly what he did and kept things tidy at the line-out.
17 — Steven Kitshoff — 8/10
Continued where Mtawarira had left off, but faced a far more formidable foe in Joe Marler.
18 — Vincent Koch — 6.5/10
The only Bok who had an off night. Struggled at scrum time but England had too much to do, while the gain line ascendancy allowed the Boks to dominate elsewhere and not rely solely on the scrum.
19 — Franco Mostert — 10/10
The Boks’ unsung hero. He never fails when he puts on the jersey and a shift was needed from him. He could play another eight games without stopping
20 — RG Snyman — 8/10
Made sure there were no late line-out mishaps
21 — Francois Louw — 8/10
Experienced loose-forward actually helped speed the game up with his quick recycling.
22 — Herschel Jantjies — N/R
Wasn’t on long enough to be rated, but made the crucial pass that ended the game.
23 — Frans Steyn — N/R
Wasn’t on long enough to be rated, but is a dual World Cup winner.