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05:54 PM BST
New Zealand tweaked their team for the final against with a single change but resisted any temptation to power up their bench to offset the forward-heavy list of replacements the Springboks named on Thursday.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster changed his lock combination again with Brodie Retallick restored to the line-up and Sam Whitelock returning to the list of replacements in the only change to the starting team.
New Zealand believe the 35-year-old Whitelock, playing his third World Cup final, is most effective coming off the bench, and could bring an injection of energy at a time when South Africa are refreshing their forwards.
Retallick and Scott Barrett started against Ireland in the quarter-final and Barrett and Whitelock were the lock combination in last week’s semi-final success against Argentina.
Among the substitutes, tighthead prop Nepo Lualua comes in for Fletcher Newell, adding more size, but the All Blacks keep a 5-3 split between forwards and backs.
Starting XV: 15-Beauden Barrett, 14-Will Jordan, 13-Rieko Ioane, 12-Jordie Barrett, 11-Mark Telea, 10-Richie Mo’unga, 9-Aaron Smith, 1-Ethan de Groot, 2-Codie Taylor, 3-Tyrel Lomax, 4-Brodie Retallick, 5-Scott Barrett, 6-Shannon Frizell, 7-Sam Cane, 8-Ardie Savea
Replacements: 16-Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17-Tamaiti Williams, 18-Nepo Laulala, 19-Sam Whitelock, 20-Dalton Papali’i, 21-Finlay Christie, 22-Damian McKenzie, 23-Anton Lienert-Brown
Handre Pollard will start at fly-half against New Zealand with the Springboks springing a surprise by naming a 7-1 split among the forwards and backs on the bench.
Pollard replaces Manie Libbok at No 10 while Faf de Klerk comes in at scrum-half in two changes from the line-up that started last Saturday’s narrow 16-15 semi-final victory over England.
The 29-year-old Pollard was brought on for Libbok after 30 minutes of the semi-final in one of several drastic substitutions made by the Boks’ coaches to try and get themselves back into the game.
In the end, Pollard proved the match-winner again as he kicked over a 48-metre penalty to hand South Africa a place in the final.
South Africa’s bench split gambles on fresh forward power winning them the game but runs the risk of having limited cover should there be any injury among the backs.
Starting XV: 15-Damian Willemse, 14-Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13-Jesse Kriel, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Cheslin Kolbe, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Faf de Klerk, 1-Steven Kitshoff, 2-Bongi Mbonambi, 3-Frans Malherbe, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 5-Franco Mostert, 6-Siya Kolisi, 7-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8-Duane Vermeulen
Replacements: 16-Deon Fourie, 17-Ox Nche, 18-Trevor Nyakane, 19-Jean Kleyn, 20-RG Snyman, 21-Kwagga Smith, 22-Jasper Wiese, 23-Willie Le Roux
Referee: Wayne Barnes
05:43 PM BST
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05:39 PM BST
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05:26 PM BST
The biggest rivalry in rugby
Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport’s coverage of the Rugby World Cup final as New Zealand take on South Africa in what promises to be a showdown for the ages in Paris.
The All Blacks vs the Springboks is the greatest rivalry in rugby, with the two nations sharing the record for the most World World Cup crowns at three apiece. Tonight, they face each other on the biggest stage of all for a chance to draw clear as the most decorated side in the sport’s history. Put simply: the stakes could not be higher.
These two great sides have dominated rugby’s professional era, matching each other yard for yard throughout their decorated histories. When the All Blacks won the first installment of the tournament in 1987, the Springboks hit back in 1995 to win their own. When New Zealand pulled clear in 2015 to become the only nation to win three world cups crowns, South Africa dragged themselves out of obscurity to claim their third trophy in 2019.
And tonight, the Springboks fight to retain their crown. In doing so, they would become the only team to do so other than, you guessed it, the All Blacks.
This year’s final has the unique distinction of being the first to be played between two sides who have lost in the pool stages. New Zealand’s campaign got off to a rocky start with an opening night 27-13 defeat to France. However, they bounced back to rout the rest of their pool and have proved a revelation at this tournament, finishing with the highest points difference of any side in the competition. They then withstood an almighty test from the much-vaunted Irish – who had won 17 games on the trot – before breezing past an off-colour Argentina side to reach the final.
As for South Africa, after a fine display against Scotland in their opener, they suffered a 13-8 defeat to Ireland and had to regroup ahead of their quarter-final clash against France. In what will surely go down as one of the greatest games in World Cup history, the Springboks came from behind to derail French ambitions of home World Cup glory, with replacement fly-half Handre Pollard kicking the winning penalty in the dying moments to steer the reigning champions to victory.
The Leicester-man then repeated this trick against England in the semi-final – a game in which the Springboks were largely out-played and trailed for all but the final two minutes, but found a way to win thanks to a scrummaging master-class from replacement front-row Ox Nche. The prop’s motto in life is “Salads don’t win scrums”, and he exploited this mantra to full effect.
History tonight skews in favour of South Africa, who have never last lost a World Cup final. The only time these two have met met on the biggest stage was in 1995, when the Springboks clinched victory through the boot of Joel Stransky and the inspirational leadership of Francois Pienaar.
Nearly three decades later, the Springboks have another emblematic leader to rally behind in Siya Kolisi, a player whose life story, serene temperament, raw ability and sheer presence have the power to inspire a nation. A win today would catapult his already already ethereal status into the almost mythic realm of being the only Springbok captain to win back-to-back World Cup trophies.
For New Zealand, victory tonight would mean redemption for the beleaguered outgoing coach Ian Foster, who has struggled more than any other All Blacks coach in recent times to win over their fans.
Despite pressure mounting on Foster between World Cup cycles following shock defeats to Argentina and a first series loss to Ireland, the head coach weathered the storm and has quietly gone about remoulding the All Blacks, ironing out any weaknesses in preparation for the tournament.
For several years, including at the last World Cup, the problem of fitting Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga seemed irresolvable. Meanwhile, a glut of world class wingers and full-backs belied the side’s relatively underpowered centre combination. There were problems up front too, with the All Blacks struggling to find a prop pairing who could compete at the scrum against the world’s best, while the biggest question marks of all hung over the head of Foster’s choice of captain Sam Cane.
Repeated injuries dogged Cane throughout the inter-tournament years, while a poor run of form and the exciting arrival of Dalton Papalii left many pundits calling for the skipper to be dropped. But as the World Cup approached Foster appeared to have finally cracked the Mo’unga x Barrett 10-15 axis and converted Jordie Barrett and Rieko Ioane into a superb centre partnership, allowing WIll Jordan and Mark Telea to thrive on the wings.
In the forwards, the emergence of Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax has stabilised the All Blacks scrum, but most significant of all has been the return of Cane.
Despite the captain suffering a back injury in the lead up to the World Cup and only returning to the starting XV for New Zealand’s final group game, Foster stuck by his captain, who rewarded this faith with one of the performances of his career against Ireland. The skipper put in a virtuoso display of steely determination to rival that of Kolisi against France.
The Springboks have also undergone a transformation over the past few years. Masterminded by the oft-times unconventional methods of coaches Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus, the Springboks have evolved from a physical juggernaut – whose game was built upon set-piece dominance and metronomic kicking – to a team of attacking flair.
While their pack is still made up of megafauna – with the likes of 6ft 8” Eben Etzebeth in the second row and 6ft 9” RG Snyman waiting in the wings – fly-half Mannie Libbok lit up the pool stages with a scintillating no-look cross kick for Willemse to score against Scotland. Meanwhile, wings of Arendse and Kolbe pose a threat from any area of the field.
But despite their evolution, the Boks have reverted tactics to what they know best for the final. Namely, to make it an arm wrestle. Faced with the attacking flair of the All Blacks, Libbok has dropped out of the squad altogether in favour of Pollard.
Having kicked the winning penalties against both France and England, the World Cup-winning fly-half starts for the first time this tournament. It boggles the mind to think that just eight weeks ago, he was playing for Leicester on a cold night away at Sale having just recovered from a calf injury. He now has the chance to kick the Springboks to sporting greatness.
The clearest indication of Springbok intentions, however, is their 7-1 forwards-backs split on the bench, which they have reprised from their most recent victory against the All Blacks on the eve of the tournament. New Zealand must withstand South Africa’s initial physical onslaught as well as the arrival of the bomb squad if they are to stay in the game.
In games of this magnitude, South Africa have the rare ability to draw upon a higher purpose than rugby, with captain Siya Kolisi repeatedly reminding his team that they are playing for the people back home who cannot afford to be at the World Cup. A win today would allow them to finally draw clear of their old foes and propel them into the realm of sporting immortality. Yet perhaps the only team who can match the ardent passion of the Springbok support base is the All Blacks. They, too, have the hopes of a nation resting on their shoulders and will be looking to make history of their own.
“It’s probably the biggest occasion that we will ever be part of, probably the biggest rugby game there has ever been,” said South Africa coach Nienaber.
“One and two in the world rankings playing each other in the World Cup final, and whoever wins will be the first country to win a fourth World Cup. It’s massive.”
All Blacks fly-half Mo’unga said: “We’ll look back in time on what a journey it has been and how exciting it all comes down to this last game.
“The mindset might have been nerves going around and how daunting it can be, but now we’re really excited to put our best foot forward and give it a crack and, I think, if we do that, we’ll make ourselves proud.”