Siya Kolisi, in his 50th match became the first black Springbok captain to lift the Web Ellis trophy. Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi, two black players, created the first ever Springbok World Cup final try to be scored, and in doing so solidified South Africa’s hold on the game. The Springboks, in winning the World Cup in Japan in 2019, are a story of country that in two years have transformed their rugby ability, transformed public opinion and transformed the quality of representation in the national side.
Every single player in the Springbok side performed in their emphatic 32-12 win over England. Duane Vermeulen was enormous. Makazole Mapimpi reached a tally of six tries in the tournament, scoring the Springboks’ first ever World Cup Final try. Cheslin Kolbe, nominee for World Player of the year recovered from an ankle injury in the quarter final to come back and score in the final.
Willi Le Roux and Faf De Klerk, who have come under weeks of criticism were integral to a game plan that absolutely dominated England and provided the platform for the Springboks to then play some of the most attractive rugby not only in their year, but in all the World Cup Finals I’ve watched. In sticking to the 6-2 bench split and backing the dominance of their set piece and kicking game, bolstered by Handre Pollard’s excellence off the tee, the Springboks blew England out of the final.
Two Springboks in Pieter-Steph Du Toit and Cheslin Kolbe, colossal in the final, were nominated for World Player of the Year. Rassie Erasmus nominated for coach of the year, and Springboks for team of the year. If the Springboks’ journey this year, culminating in Final victory, does not speak for itself, World Rugby has done it for them.
One could go on about the individual performance of every single one of the 23 players in the final, of every single player involved in the World Cup campaign, but it is the collective that functioned under the guidance of Siya Kolisi and the brilliance of Rassie Erasmus and his coaching staff that speaks volumes of the progression of Springbok rugby as a whole. Four years after losing to Japan in the pool stages of the 2015 World Cup, the Springboks have come back in keeping with their twelve-year cycle to lift the cup in Japan.