Little did Charles Monro know, when he returned home in 1870 after studying at Christ’s College in Finchley, England, that the oval ball he hid in his suitcase would become New Zealand’s best ambassador in the world. Since then, the land of the white cloud, or more specifically the silver fern team, has dazzled the planet with its rugby excellence, putting a remote nation of barely five million inhabitants on the map. Appearing in Paris tonight was the team that Mandela used to prevent a civil war, to change history and to unite a country. Two teams that transcend rugby and sport. The All Blacks and the Springboks. The final of the finals.
But they also exemplify two schools of rugby, the yin and the yang, physicality versus talent, collision versus evasion. A last-minute guest sneaked into the duel, the rain. He blowing in favor of the South Africans, whose game plan was gaining pressure in their short kicking game into the box. South Africa came out putting all their effort, as expected, and demanding a lot in the battle points. And things started to happen… Three minutes later South Africa, in a ruck inconsequential, Frizell cleaned Mbonambi by the neck and the African left his knee stuck. Considering that Malcolm Marx, starting heel, was already injured, it was a problem for the Bokkes. Even so, the South Africans subdued those in black and Pollard passed two shots, to one from Mounga (6-3).
Red to Cane
The bokkes squeezed every play, tense every ruckthey destroyed every charge, they insisted on every touch. New Zealand suffered without the ball, not a single display in half an hour. Karpov cornered Kasparov. And then something happened that marked the game. In another inconsequential ruck, Cane was very high against Kriel and the yellow was dyed red. Hell in inferiority is more hell. Competing physically with South Africa is an epic, doing so with one less is a utopia. The South African dribbling bled the All Blacks, but the Oceanians remained within a try at halftime (6-12).
The All Blacks returned from the locker room revitalized, who also saw how Kolisi, the South African captain, saw yellow for another header in a tackle. New Zealand grew, playing evenly again, and put the South Africans in their field until they had two tries. The first was canceled by a previous avant, the second going up on the scoreboard after a great play by Telea that gave Beauden the try (11-12) with Kolisi already on the field. But the conversion did not happen…
Victory was played in every percussion, in every race, in every decision. New Zealand held on at a disadvantage against a superlative rival that also refreshed its lungs and legs by bringing out the ‘Bomb Squad’, its seven forwards that strained the Kiwis’ vertebrae even more. The rain gave a truce and the expected protagonists began to appear: Kolbe, the Barretts, Mounga… While the battle ahead was bloody, heroes were sought behind. Whitelock and Retallick acted as seconds and Scott Barrett disguised himself as third alongside Ardie Savea to compensate with kilos for the inferiority in the carnage that was the combat points. In the scrums he compensated for Jordi as a flanker.
The final of the finals would be decided in a gesture, a detail. The slightest error would determine a historic match. And then a recovery Kiwi It caused a stampede that Kolbe stopped with a rude slap that sent him to the bench and left the final ten minutes on equal terms again, fourteen against fourteen. Jordie Barrertt missed the kick and the suspense kept the score at one point. South Africa, as in 2015, tried to win with blows. New Zealand were more ambitious and Barrett’s try kept them ahead.
The game died out on the New Zealand field. Phase after phase consuming seconds that dripped on the way to the most epic triumph in the history of rugby. Kolbe was crying uncontrollably in the sin bin. while South Africa, which would have beaten any rival that stood in front of it, gave up its life to beat New Zealand as an inferior. The one who did not rehearse won, with a rugby rustic, but with the enormous merit of beating a team superior in talent. Madiba’s grandchildren, the team Mandela believed in to stop one war, won another. Honor to the All Blacks, glory to South Africa.