Rugby World Cup: Springboks set sights on All Blacks in final – 'You're going to need 30 points'
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Deep down the Springboks know they can dance with the All Blacks on the biggest rugby occasion of the year, no matter how ungainly the defending World Cup champions were in stumbling their way there.  

After a pair of contrasting semifinals, this Rugby World Cup has its last two teams standing, and the fact that they are the All Blacks and Springboks getting set to tango at the Big Dance in Paris should surprise no one. These are the top two nations in the history of this event, with three titles apiece, and at the end of however long it takes to decide this final on Saturday night at Stade de France (8am Sunday kickoff NZT) one team, one nation, will be the first to claim a quartet of global crowns.

But their passages could not have been more different. The All Blacks made short work of Argentina in the first of the final-four matchups, running in seven tries and easing to the most comfortable of 44-6 victories. They look, for all the world, like a team peaking at the right end of the tournament after their historic defeat in their opening pool match against the hosts.

South Africa, on the other hand, could not have made harder work of their semifinal against England on Sunday (NZT), trailing 15-6 deep into the contest played in consistent drizzle and relying on a clutch 78th-minute, 50-metre penalty from replacement flyhalf Handre Pollard to secure a 16-15 victory.

It was the second straight week the defending champion Springboks had snuck through by a single point, after they outlasted France in an outstanding quarterfinal, 29-28, to crush the host country’s hopes of a first ever Webb Ellis Cup.

Most of the talk post-match in the Springboks camp centred on the challenge served up by a physical and dialled-in England outfit who clearly rattled the South Africans, and also the late heroics of, first, lock RG Snyman and then Pollard – part of the renowned ‘Bomb Squad’ – to come up with the scores required to dig themselves out of the hole.

But coach Jacques Nienaber did concede in the aftermath of a messy victory and a flawed performance from his men that they were going to have to be better next weekend. Much better.

"It's going to be a final, it's going to be tight,” said the Boks coach. “They [the All Blacks] are in excellent form. If you look at their last few games, [if] you're not going to get close to 30-35 points, you won't be in the mix."

Skipper Siya Kolisi agreed, pointing out that “it is going to be hard, it's going to be special” when his team lines up for just its second World Cup final against the New Zealanders as they look to secure back-to-back crowns for the first time.

Bruising South Africa loose forward Pieter-Steph du Toit, who will not be one bit intimidated by the assignment against the in-form All Blacks, indicated his team would reset pretty quickly after their struggles against England.

“The final is a different ball game,” he said. “You’re playing against a top-quality side in New Zealand, so of course anything can happen there as well. We have to make sure we prepare well. We need to be better at taking opportunities and play the conditions that are there as well.”

Brilliant wing Cheslin Kolbe, who saw scant opportunities in what was largely a kickfest against England, said the Boks had to be prepared to go up a level.

"They played a brilliant game yesterday, and they're a quality team all-round,” he said. “We know it's going to be physical, so we'll recover as well as we can tonight, shift our focus on Monday and come [out] hitting next week."

Added starting Boks halfback Cobus Reinach: “There's a lot of homework to be done on them and there's a lot of things we need to fix in our game."

The matchup between the All Blacks and Springboks will be just the second meeting between the two southern rugby superpowers in the World Cup final, with the Boks shading the only previous matchup in a memorable encounter in 1995 at Ellis Park when they won 15-12 in extra time.

The two nations have clashed five times in total at Rugby World Cups, with the All Blacks winning three and the Boks two. Their last meeting was at the 2019 tournament in Japan – where the South Africans claimed their third Webb Ellis Cup – when the New Zealanders won their pool clash 23-13.

The two sides have split their test matches this year, with Foster’s men winning 35-20 in Auckland in July and the Boks, of course, thumping the New Zealanders 35-7 at Twickenham just prior to the World Cup to inflict the heaviest test defeat in their history.

These are two teams who know each other well, respect each other immensely and will understand that there will be a price to pay for lifting that fourth Webb Ellis Cup deep into the Parisian evening next Saturday night.