The Springboks made history on Saturday night at Stade de France, beating New Zealand 12-11 to become the first team in history to win the Rugby World Cup four times.
Entering the big decider, the two southern hemisphere giants were locked at three titles each - South Africa having won in 1995, 2007 and 2019, while New Zealand took gold in 1987, 2011 and 2015.
It was Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and his men who became the first to fourth and also the second time in history to win back-to-back titles after putting on a superb defensive display in head coach Jacques Nienaber’s final match in charge of the team.
Of the victory, Nienaber says: “This is probably for our fans and for South Africa. I wish I could show you the amount of messages we have received and what is going on in South Africa.
“We have 62 million people united, opening up communities to allow people to watch, an entrance fee of whatever they wanted to donate. People have bought green T-shirts for everyone. “We felt every single bit of energy they gave us and in the last three games, all one-point victories, that drove us.”
Kolisi agrees, saying: “There is not a lot of things going right in our country and we have the privilege to be able to do what we love and inspire people in life, not just sports people.
“Where I come from I couldn’t dream I could be here today. We come from different walks of life. I had my own goals and ambitions. I want to look after my family, I want to give back to my community. You need to come and see South Africa to understand. When we come together nothing can stop us, not just in sport but also in life.”
He adds: “For me not to give my 100 percent on the field would be cheating all those people and that’s what the coaches always remind us of. The motivations for us, we don’t have to look far.”
New Zeland coach Ian Foster was understandably heartbroken after his final match in charge and says: “For us it’s heartbreaking and I look at the effort of our team, the way we played and came back and gave ourselves a really good crack at that, the second-half particularly after the red card in the first-half and the damage that decision made. Overall, incredibly proud of our team but we’ve got a disappointed shed.”
Kiwi captain Sam Cane was red-carded in the first half and couldn’t have been more disappointed in the result.
Cane says: “Look, at the time I wasn’t even aware, it caught me off guard that he stepped back. But we have been here for two months now and anything around the head has ramifications. I’m not here to discuss whether it was the right or wrong decision. It can’t be changed. Unfortunately it is something I am going to have to live with forever.”