The tenth Rugby World Cup closes in apotheosis on Saturday (9:00 p.m.) at the Stade de France with a final between the two most successful winners in the discipline, New Zealand and South Africa, in search of a historic fourth crown.
New Zealand-South Africa is a bit like the rugby equivalent of Brazil-Germany in football. An opposition of styles between a team with a mythical aura and shimmering play, and a monster of efficiency more focused on combat.
Brought to the screen by Clint Eastwood in his film “Invictus”, their first final, in 1995, won by the South Africans, largely fueled their rivalry in a very political context at the time, the new president Nelson Mandela having saw rugby as a means of unifying the rainbow nation in the aftermath of apartheid.
Nelson Mandela congratulates South African captain François Pienaar after the Springboks' victory over New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final on June 24, 1995 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, the only confrontation between the two nations to date. stage of the competition © AFP – JEAN-PIERRE MULLER
“This match opened a lot of doors, for me and for many others”, testified third row Siya Kolisi, first black captain of the history of the Springboks.
The only team so far to have retained its title (2011 and 2015), New Zealand went through unusual turbulence last year which almost cost its coach Ian his place Foster.
Falling from the start against the Blues (27-13) in the opening match on September 8, the All Blacks gained momentum throughout the tournament in the wake of their omnipotent third row Ardie Savea or the three Scott brothers, Jordie and Beauden Barrett.
– Power or dynamism –
South African second row RG Snyman, on the substitutes' bench at the start of the match, scored the only try in the Springboks' victory against England in the semi-final of the World Cup on October 21, 2023 at the Stadium from France © AFP – Miguel MEDINA
The outgoing South African champions also lost a match, against the Irish favorites (13-8) during the group stage, but they seem unsinkable since, with unshakeable faith in the duo of strategists formed by Jacques Nienaber, coach , and Rassie Erasmus, director of rugby.
As against Ireland, the latter chose to place seven forwards and only one back (the versatile Willie Le Roux) on the substitutes' bench, with the firm intention to impose their devastating power ahead for 80 minutes.
The greedy left pillar Ox Nche, the robust second line RG Snyman, the versatile third lines Deon Fourie and Kwagga Smith, decisive against France (29-28) in the quarter-final then against England (16-15) in half hour, should still play an essential role in the last half hour.
New Zealand winger Will Jordan after scoring a try in the semi-final of the 2023 World Cup against 'Argentina on October 20, 2023 at the Stade de France © AFP – FRANCK FIFE
The New Zealanders will be hoping that rain forecast for Saturday night will not stop them from developing their movement game. They have already scored 48 tries in six matches and have a lethal weapon in their winger Will Jordan, who has already flattened eight times, a record in the same edition co-held with the All Blacks Jonah Lomu (1999) and Julian Savea (2015) and Springbok Bryan Habana (2007).
All Black dynamism or South African frontality? The titans of the Southern Hemisphere will compete for supremacy in world rugby with a fourth coronation (record) for one or the other. In ten editions.
– And now, the Olympics –
Before this explosive final bouquet, we can look back with nostalgia on the first weeks of this 2023 World Cup, marked by the gap still as wide between small and large nations despite the Portuguese enthusiasm or the beautiful Fijian journey.
We will also not forget that the draw, carried out much too early, brought together the four best teams of the moment in the quarter-finals and doomed them early (Ireland and France). /p>
World Rugy Chairman Bill Beaumont presents a medal to Owen Farrell, flyhalf and captain of the England team who beat Argentina 26-23 in the third place match at the Rugby World Cup on October 27, 2023 at the Stade de France © AFP – Anne-Christine POUJOULAT
An error that the governing body of world rugby, World Rugby, has promised to correct before the next edition, in Australia in 2027, in which 24 nations will participate, against 20 so far.
This will paradoxically reduce the duration of the competition by one week, organized without any major hiccups since September 8, despite a security context made increasingly tense by current events.
Building on this reassuring trial run after the fiasco of the Champions League final in May 2022 between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Saint-Denis, France will host in less than a year another international sporting event of an even greater dimension: the Paris 2024 Olympic Games (July 26-August 11). Where the French will be in the running until the last day.
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