Rugby World Cup 2023: South Africa's Super Stats In Triumph

South Africa's perfect record in Rugby World Cup finals was extended in Paris on Saturday as they became the first nation to win the tournament four times.

A nerve-shredding 12-11 victory over New Zealand completed back-to-back World Cup wins and led to debate about whether they are the greatest team in history.

Here, we take a look at some of the statistics from the Springboks' success in France.

The impeccable final record remains

South Africa's World Cup record is even more remarkable when you consider they did not take part in either of the first two tournaments.

After their readmission to international rugby post-apartheid, the Springboks made their World Cup debut as hosts in 1995 and have won four of the eight tournaments they have contested:

  • South Africa have a 100% winning record in World Cup finals, beating New Zealand twice (1995 & 2023) and England twice (2007 & 2019).
  • They have won those finals despite only scoring two tries in total - both of those coming in the 32-12 win over England in 2019.
  • Beauden Barrett's score in Paris on Saturday was the first time the Springboks had conceded a try in a World Cup final.
  • South Africa are the second team to win successive World Cups and the first to do so when both tournaments were overseas. The first of New Zealand's back-to-back wins came as hosts in 2011.
  • Fourteen of the 23 South Africa players that featured in the 2023 final were also involved in the 2019 success against England.

The one-point wonders

"Relief is what springs to mind first, the last three games were one-pointers and they weren't planned like that," head coach Jacques Nienaber told BBC Radio 5 Live after defeating the All Blacks.

After squeezing past hosts France 29-28 in their quarter-final and then narrowly beating England 16-15 in the semis, it was another one-point margin of victory for the Springboks in the final:

  • Prior to the 2023 tournament, only five of 66 World Cup knockout fixtures had been settled by a one-point margin (excluding third-place play-offs).
  • South Africa's aggregate margin of victory through the knockout stage - three points - is by far the smallest of any victorious nation at a Rugby World Cup.
  • Of the nine previous winners, the next smallest aggregate margin of knockout-stage wins was 17 points by Australia in 1991, followed by England's 31 points in 2003. The largest is New Zealand's 90 in the inaugural 1987 competition.

Individual brilliance

New Zealand had the better of territory (53%) and ball possession (60%) in the final, despite having captain Sam Cane sent off in the first half.

The Springboks needed their defence to step up - and they did so, making 209 tackles, significantly their highest tally in a match at the 2023 tournament (New Zealand made 93 tackles in the final):

  • Player of the match Pieter-Steph du Toit led the way for the Boks with a match-high total of 28 tackles. The back row played more minutes at the World Cup than any other South African forward - 386 out of a possible 560.
  • All of their starting forwards in the final (excluding Bongi Mbonambi who went off injured after four minutes) were in double figures for tackles.
  • Deon Fourie, Mbonambi's replacement at hooker, was second on the list with 21.
  • Second row Franco Mostert attempted 49 tackles in the Springboks' three knockout games and did not miss a single one.

Meanwhile, the ever-reliable boot of Handre Pollard pushed the Springboks just beyond the All Blacks' reach.

The Leicester fly-half was not named in South Africa's initial 33-man squad because of his ongoing recovery from a calf injury, but was drafted in when injured hooker Malcolm Marx was ruled out during the pool stage.

He appeared in South Africa's final four matches and had a 100% record from the tee, registering points with all 13 of his attempts at goal.

All 12 of Pollard's points in the final came in the first 34 minutes at Stade de France, while New Zealand were left to rue missed efforts from difficult positions in the second half by Richie Mo'unga and Jordie Barrett.

To be the best, you've got to beat the best

Nobody can accuse South Africa of having an easy route to glory in France.

They entered the final top of the world rankings, and have had to face all of the nations between second and sixth in the most recent list on their way to a fourth World Cup triumph.

Ireland, who began the tournament as the world's number one side, defeated the Springboks in a classic contest during the pool stage, but an earlier win over Scotland helped South Africa secure a quarter-final spot.

Then their three hard-fought wins over France, England and New Zealand in the knockout phase resulted in them being crowned champions again.

- Author: Phil Cartwright, BBC Sport


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