South Africa and New Zealand, alpha and omega of world rugby, face each other this Saturday in the final of the finals. The battle that will determine who wins the war (the World Cup), and who reaches the four titles alone. Dad or mom?
Two styles and the ‘Bomb Squad’
Beyond being a rugby match, it is a duel of styles. Prose or poetry, muscle or neuron, invasion or evasion. On the one hand, the stoniest and most veteran South Africa in history. Ten players will repeat the final, after winning the 2019 final, but the news is not in the headlines. Never before has a bench been understood as a declaration of war as obvious as this one. Because the seven forwards that South Africa ambushes as substitutes explicitly define the match they are going to propose. There is no plan B, because plan B is two cups of plan A. Front, front and front.
The dreaded ‘Bomb Squad’ will sharpen its heels waiting for Nienaber and Erasmus to knock. There the irrepressible Ox Nché, unbalanced in the semi-final against England, the unstoppable Snyman and the versatile Kwaga Smith await their turn. That 7+1 (forwards/three quarters) on the bench means that The game is going to be played before 80 minutes and the idea of the bokkes is hiding the ball from New Zealand. They do well because if the All Blacks have exhibited anything in the World Cup, it is their surgical ability to score points every time they step on the rival 22. They are the team that has scored the most points (325 to South Africa’s 196), the most tries (48 to 27), he has broken the rival defense more times (81 times out of 34) and he has made more passes after contact (53 out of 31). An offensive tsunami capable of accelerating each ball or taking the advantage to the point on the field that interests them. And all at the speed of light. Nobody thinks better than the All Blacks and nobody executes faster than them. Absolute reliability.
Given this, the South African recipe is the most coherent: inhuman intensity. The same pattern of play that has led them to dominate world rugby, be current champions and leave England and France behind in this World Cup, and put Ireland ahead, something that they did not translate into victory due to Libbok’s bad footing. , who has gone from undisputed starter to watching the final in the stands. Handré Pollard, who started the World Cup on his farm shearing sheep, will be the 10th to conduct the orchestra bokke in the end. And next to him will be on the hinge Faf de Klerk, whose leadership will be decisive in the mental battle against the kiwis. The 9 is capable of changing the mood of his companions and is the one who will “feed the fat people.” Faf will feed the boiler and strain his front vertebrae to undo the oceanic ones. On the New Zealand side, which comes out with its gala XV, De Groot will command the bottom in the mellés, Retallick up in the touches with Scott Barrett doing the dirty work and Ardie Savea will crown a reliable third with Cane and Frizzell.
Bokke infantry, Kiwi cavalry
In rugby, as in all sports, the best ball is always the one recovered. The one who catches the opponent attacking, with the defense out of position and space to do damage. That is why South Africa will not give away a single ball, even more so when it became clear in the semi-final that their wings, Kolbe and Arendse, are lethal on the ground (this is how they knocked down France), but they suffer with the ball in the air (this is how they deactivated them England). Added to that is that the Kiwis, with Will ‘Air’ Jordan and Telea on the wings, dominate the airspace like few others. The South African infantry is dominant, but the New Zealand cavalry and aviation are superior. That is why in this match possession will be more important than territoriality. It’s about keeping the ball forward as much as possible. Defend with the ball. The last time they met, in the 2015 semi-final, the bokkes They already proposed this same match trying to suffocate the All Blacks. However, Pollard’s five blows and another from Lambie were insufficient to defeat the kiwis (18-20), who scored two tries (one by Beauden) and reached the final, where they beat Australia with ease.
It is, therefore, about a match of colossal dimensions between the most physical team in history, this South Africa of Etzebeth, Kolisi, Du Toit, Monster, Mbonambi, Vermeullen, Snyman or Malherbe, and a New Zealand in which some of the best players in the history of the All Blacks still play like Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Sam Whitelock or Dan Coles. It will also be the farewell to a generation that has been dominating world rugby for years, because at the end of the match many will hang up their team’s shirt. Precisely for that reason It is the final that rugby deserves to seal this change of era. Even today it is not clear whether rugby is a contact or escape sport. In South Africa they defend the former. In New Zealandthe second. They are two ways of understanding rugby, but also of living life.