Here’s how the Springboks managed to retain their Rugby World Cup title

The Springboks won back-to-back Rugby World Cup and became only the second team to do so. Photo: Yoan Valat/EPA

The Springboks won back-to-back Rugby World Cup and became only the second team to do so. Photo: Yoan Valat/EPA

Published Oct 30, 2023


The Springboks took the road less travelled to reach the pinnacle of the World Cup, but it's a path that they embraced from the get-go in their quest to remain the best rugby team in the world.

Not a lot of teams will come unscathed from the so-called ‘Group of Death’ at a big tournament, a tough quarter- and semi-final against the top five rugby teams, and still have fuel left in the tank to beat the second-best side in the world in the final.

Saturday's 12-11 win in Paris just emphasised how good the Springboks are as a side and that it will take a special team to steal the World Cup from them.

They went toe-to-toe with the All Blacks in the Stade de France and plenty of teams will tell you even when the New Zealanders are down a player - as was the case with captain Sam Cane's red card - they won't go down without a fight.

The Boks had to match that fight, and in those rainy conditions, it was always going to be difficult to do that on attack.

The All Blacks clearly won that part of the game.

But when it comes to defence, and their ability to scramble and keep teams out, that's where the South African players stepped up massively to clinch the title.

It takes a lot out of you, physically and mentally, to stop a rampaging All Black side, and when first losing captain Siya Kolisi to a yellow card, and late on inspirational winger Cheslin Kolbe, they could've folded under the immense pressure.

Stepping up in those trying conditions, under those circumstances, is what makes the Boks world champions, though. How they step up for each other.

Take a guy like Pieter-Steph du Toit covering every inch of the Stade de France while making bone crunching tackles, 28 of them.

The 37-year-old Deon Fourie stepped up in the biggest match of his career and did so successfully when starting hooker Bongi Mbonambi was injured within the first five minutes.

His line-outs were not too good, but he made up for that by hitting rucks and tackling like he's still a youthful forward.

Fourie cramped up in his quads and calves late in the game but refused to go off because he knew the team needed a hooker.

Battered and bloodied, but no matter what the All Blacks threw at them, the Boks defended like Trojan warriors, and that is exactly what the coaching staff have instilled in them.

To fight for one another, to fight for the Springbok jersey, and to fight for South Africa.

Prop Ox Nche summed it up nicely after the win over the Kiwis, saying it is in the DNA of South Africans to not give up, even when their backs are against the wall.

After Kolbe received that yellow card, and the Boks had to defend with 14 players, they managed to do that with determination.

"It shows our resilience," said Nche.

"In South Africa, that is what we are made of. When you think we are down, that’s when we come out and shock you and show you that we can achieve anything."

That fight, the warrior, the 'dog' in the Springboks, was there right through the final.

And it brought a brand new record as a sole team to have won four titles and only the second to go back-to-back.