Take a bow, Rassie Erasmus. Take a bow, Springboks rugby. A stunning display of power and precision has delivered a third Rugby World Cup title for South Africa in the most emphatic manner at Yokohama’s International Stadium on Saturday night.
All the talk in the lead-up to this ninth World Cup final had been of England’s fearsome pack and ferocious physicality, and whether the limited South Africans could hope to live with them.
Well, that hadn’t accounted for the big-match temperament of the South Africans, who have now won three World Cup finals in three attempts, with the latest a commanding 32-12 victory over an outmatched England side.
And it certainly hadn’t accounted for the coaching genius of Erasmus who had his team perfectly prepared for this contest which capped an incredible transformation since he took charge less than two years ago
Erasmus’ Boks dominated this match from the start, grinding the English down through a physically superior first 40 minutes. They smashed the English at scrum time and collected the points to establish an important buffer, up six at the break and by the same margin at the three-quarter mark.
Then they broke the game open over the run home with stunning strikes from their wonderful wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, to leave Eddie Jones’ England flapping at air.
The Boks spent 60 minutes pounding England on the ropes, then they delivered the two knockout blows with their opponents out on their feet.
It was a superb display from the South Africans, their forwards owning the physical exchanges, their defensive line on point throughout and their ball-in-hand game as good as it needed to be.
England, on the other hand, were unable to recapture anything resembling the heights they reached a week earlier in stunning the All Blacks in their semifinal.
They never got the go-forward of that match and never established any momentum.
They spent the whole night chasing the Boks, chasing the game and chasing an increasingly unlikely escape route. It simply never came.
Erasmus must take huge credit for the belief he instilled in his men who become the first side to lift the Worlds Cup after suffering a defeat (to the All Blacks) in pool play and also for the game-plan which was decisive.
But his men delivered it perfectly on the big stage, from the precision kicking of Handre Pollard to the hard men up front to the speedsters out wide. It was a delight to watch.
Being the business end of a World Cup, each match has a different dynamic, a different life force, if you will.