South Africa’s Springboks will set out to become the first team in history to win the Rugby World Cup four times when they tackle rivals the All Blacks in the final at Stade de France on Saturday at 9pm.
New Zealand, too, are eyeing a fourth title, with the two teams currently locked at three apiece heading into the decider.
Defending champions and current world No.1 South Africa enter the decider on the back of two tough wins over hosts France (29-28) in the quarterfinal and England (16-15) in the semis.
The All Blacks, meanwhile, beat Ireland (28-24) in the quarters and Argentina (44-6) in the semis.
While they are both peaking in the knockout stages, New Zealand lost to France in the group stage, while South Africa went down to Ireland.
Entering their sixth World Cup match against each other, the All Blacks currently lead 3-2 at the global show--piece, with South Africa having won the only final (15-12) between the two teams in 1995.
Having won only 39 (with New Zealand bagging 62 wins with four draws) of the 105 meetings between the two to date, the Springboks will take some heart from the fact that they gave the Rugby Championship champs a record 35-7 pak slae when they met at Twickenham in the final warm-up match for the tournament.
Bok captain Siya Kolisi can’t wait to take the field and says of facing Sam Cane and his manne: “It’s huge. We’ve prepared as hard as we can. We know what to expect. I don’t think as a player it will ever get any bigger…”
He adds of what a win will mean to South Africa: “It can’t get bigger than this. It will mean a lot to South Africa, as we’ve seen what’s happening back at home. I am sure you’ve seen all the videos that are coming through. It’s huge, I can’t explain it.”
With rain predicted for Saturday, the Springboks swapped their halfbacks for the game, with Handre Pollard and Faf de Klerk coming in for Manie Libbok and Cobus Reinach.
Springboks: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff. 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.
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Tele’a, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot. Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Dalton Papali’i, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.