Springboks break Kiwi hearts with 12-11 win in Rugby World Cup final

South Africa's Siya Kolisi plants a kiss on the coveted trophy after the tough, tight final contest.

South Africa's Siya Kolisi plants a kiss on the coveted trophy after the tough, tight final contest. Photo:: AP

So near yet so far – that’s the story of New Zealand’s valiant bid to secure its fourth Rugby World Cup crown after going down to South Africa in a hard-fought showdown decided by a single point.

South Africa produced a tremendous rearguard action to retain the Cup, emerging as 12-11 winners after the pulsating final in Paris that saw both teams push each other to the limit.

Only a single yellow card had been shown in the nine previous World Cup finals, but four were brandished by referee Wayne Barnes during an intense showdown in the French capital.

All of South Africa’s points came from the boot of Handre Pollard as the defending champions edged out the 14-man All Blacks, despite New Zealand fullback Beauden Barrett going over in the 58th minute for the first-ever World Cup final try against the Springboks.

All Blacks captain Sam Cane became the first player to be red-carded in the showpiece match, when his first-half yellow was upgraded by the bunker on review, with teammate Shannon Frizell along with South Africa’s Siya Kolisi and Cheslin Kolbe also spending time in the sin bin.

Pollard kicked his fourth penalty after the red card was confirmed and even though Richie Mo’unga replied with a second three-pointer for the All Blacks before the break, the Springboks went into half-time a man up with a 12-6 lead.

Despite playing three-quarters of the match with 14 men, the All Blacks stuck to their ball-running game plan and scored the only try, through Barrett, to draw within a point of the lead just before the hour mark.

It was the first try South Africa had conceded in four World Cup finals but five-eighth Mo’unga missed the conversion from wide-out and the Springboks held onto a one-point lead at 12-11.

‘Gutted and disappointed’

The Springboks held firm under huge pressure over the final stages and Pollard’s four first-half penalties proved sufficient to add another title to those of 1995, 2007 and 2019.

“There are no ways I can explain it. The All Blacks took us to the end, they took us to a dark place,” Kolisi said.

“Credit to my boys too for the fight. I am just grateful we could pull it off.”

South Africa winger Kolbe was the fourth player to be yellow-carded seven minutes from time – but New Zealand’s Jordie Barrett struck the subsequent 48-metre penalty attempt wide of the posts.

New Zealand had also been chasing a record fourth title and Cane said they came within a whisker of achieving their goal.

“I’m extremely gutted and disappointed,” he said.

“The courage they showed out here tonight was incredible, the whole team are absolute warriors.”

-with AAP

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