the defense of the Blacks, the end of the match, emotional management… The keys to the New Zealand-South Africa final

The All Blacks and the Springboks face each other on Saturday in the World Cup final. One of these two nations will win a fourth title, a record in the event.

Here we are. After the small final, won by England ahead of Argentina (26-23) on Friday, it’s time for the grand final, Saturday October 28 at the Stade de France. And what a poster, since it pits the only two triple world champion nations in history, New Zealand (1987, 2011 and 2015) and South Africa (1995, 2007 and 2019). The Springboks are just one step away from retaining their title, something only… New Zealand has achieved in history. The All Blacks have once again become the black beast that makes their opponents shudder. This shock promises a grand finale after almost two months of competition. Here are four keys that should decide the new world champion.

Will the All Blacks defense hold up?

South Africa, supported by a high-quality and very powerful bench, has become accustomed to making its opponents crack at the end, or even at the very end, of matches in the competition. The Blues, like the English, were gradually asphyxiated by the Springboks’ replacements, conceding tests at almost the same time (67th for France, 69th for the XV de la Rose), where freshness takes precedence over natural qualities. Their physical dimension represents an immense challenge, they excel in this area. They brought variation to their game with a very good touch and fierce defense. They put their opponents under pressure and shine in the rucks. They improved all facets of their game for this final.”notes Jason Ryan, New Zealand forwards coach.

The South Africans know this, and will undoubtedly aim for the same tactics in the final, but they will encounter great adversity: the All Blacks, who conceded 27 points from France in the opening match, have not conceded more than 24 points (against Ireland) since, and only six in the semi-final. Against Argentina, the New Zealand forwards disgusted their Pumas counterparts in the conquest and in the scrum, while the three-quarters, in particular Rieko Ioane, slid perfectly to block the offensives on the wings. If the score is close, the intensity and rigor in defense in the final minutes will be decisive in sealing the outcome, which very often turns in favor of the Springboks in this configuration.

Who will win the wing duel?

New Zealand arrows Will Jordan and Mark Telea face South African speedsters Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse. This final will undoubtedly offer what is best in terms of winger duo in this World Cup. Between them, they accounted for 15 tries in this edition, including eight for Will Jordan alone. He’s an incredible player. He can follow through and recover the ball… In fact, he can do everything and he is capable of scoring from anywhere.”warns Willie Le Roux, the South African full-back.

In this duel, advantage to the All Blacks, who have found their wingers much more in this competition. The key will once again be to quickly overtake the South African pack to bring the surplus on the wing and finish along the touchline. Mark Telea was also very present in defense, and it will be necessary to closely control Cheslin Kolbe, whose support and very low center of gravity make him elusive, not to mention his speed. Thomas Ramos, who had seen his transformation countered by the former Stade Toulouse and RC Toulon winger, knows something about this.

Tactical intelligence and carried balls

This final will be a game of chess. Perhaps not at the level of Magnus Carlsen, but the tactical battle between Ian Foster and the Nienaber-Erasmus duo will be decisive. In this edition, advantage to the Springboks, who knew how to take tactical risks that paid off, such as releasing their opener in the 45th minute in the quarters then in the 30th minute in the half, often playing the bluff in their team composition to cover their tracks. “This duo sees things differently from what one might expect of them. We are constantly talking about tactics, informally, whether in meetings or in the coaches’ box. It’s just another point of view that in most cases people won’t have considered.”observes South Africa assistant coach Felix Jones. The All Blacks displayed a more readable tactic and no one, apart from France whose characteristics are far from those of the Boks, was able to pass them more than 24 points.

In the tactical war, the Springboks will have two elements to watch closely: the fast actions up to the wing, and the balls carried out of the touchline. Little used against weaker opponents, the All Blacks put them back into their strategy in the elimination phase, with success. Either way, the Springboks will have to resist the speed of execution of the New Zealanders. “This team looks very complete. Their kicking game has also developed. They are very good at putting the opponent under pressure, not only with their passing game, but also with their ability to use their feet. In my opinion, these two areas will be decisive.” underlines Felix Jones.

The emotional management of a world final

Finally, and this is a very specific point to a final, the management of the event and the stakes that accompany it – a record fourth world title for one of the two teams – will inevitably have an impact. No other nation has as much experience of this event as the Springboks and the All Blacks, who between them have won six of the nine editions. It’s the top of the mountain that every child wants to climb. When you are a kid, you tell yourself that you would like to live and play this kind of match. The fact that it becomes a reality puts all the efforts into perspective. It is enormous. Some have said it was perhaps the most important match in New Zealand’s history. We were criticized by the media, friends and sometimes family. All of this united us. We didn’t even think we’d make it to the final, and yet here we are!”welcomed Dalton Papali’i, the third wing line.

In terms of experience, six New Zealanders present on Saturday were already there during the 2015 title (gained against the Springboks), while on the South African side, eight starters on Saturday were already there during the 2019 final. In particular, it will be necessary to monitor the scorer Richie Mo’unga who, if he has experience to spare, will discover a world final. His sidekicks in the scrum, Aaron Smith – who will retire internationally on Saturday evening – and Faf de Klerk, are already world champions and will have to use their experience to manage the strong and weak moments of their team.

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