HARARE – When William Webb Ellis made his innocuous decision to run with a ball in 1823, little did he know he was inventing something that is now a national sport in many nations.

The game evolved, starting with five nations in the northern hemisphere in the 1980s and the ultimate price, the World Cup, which came around in 1987. It is now the litmus test for any rugby player and country, to play in the Rugby World Cup – now known as the Webb Ellis Trophy in his honour.

The rivalry, South Africa v New Zealand

Football has famous rivalries: Barcelona v Real Madrid without doubt will be the El Classico in rugby terms.

In international sport, country v country, there is hardly such that matches Barca v Madrid. If you know of many, school me please!

One such international clash, if not the only one, is the Springboks v All Blacks! And they meet this Saturday in France in the World Cup final!

They first clashed in Test rugby in the 1920s and over the years these two great teams have created something special in world sport.

These two sides have created something special for the game, whether it’s played in the fog of Dunedin or at attitude at Loftus Versfeld.

These games always leave fans on the edge of their seats because of the gripping encounters.

The irony

Since the World Cup started in 1987, these heavyweights have only collided five times at the World Cup but surprisingly Saturday will only be the second time in a final since 1995.

It is bittersweet for both nations. Nelson Mandela in 1995 appeared in a Springbok shirt and changed a national sport forever that was considered to be racist – symbol of apartheid South Africa.

In hindsights, Mandela’s appearance was a masterstroke. The game has been embraced by the general populace. The current Boks squad speaks volumes, it represents boys from all walks of life.

But back to the 1995 final for now.  New Zealand still feel aggrieved. They claim “Suzie the waitress” is the biggest reason they lost because of her food poisoning. For the last two days before that final they didn’t train, claiming to have been poisoned by a faceless character. No one will ever know.

However on Saturday there will be no excuses. Records are going to be broken. They are both aiming for a record – a fourth World Cup title.

Who will do what in the match?

The Boks will use size and power as always. The All Blacks will use their skill set and pace. It will be intriguing to watch, but trust me there will be both elation and tears. Careers will end. Heroes will be made.

New Zealand will be led by the elusive utility back.

The elusive utility back Damian McKenzie – who start on the bench, will have to come to the party. The brilliant Riche Mo’unga start for the Kiwis at flyhalf and then another marvellous back, Anton Lienert-Brown, also comes off the bench.

Well, in fact for both teams – the X-factor will be made off the bench. South Africa’s “bomb squad” has been phenomenal this World Cup. They have gone with a 7+1 split for the final.

And can All Blacks wing Will Jordan outscore the greats Jonah Lomu, Julian Savea and Bryan Habana to become the World Cup’s highest try scorer? He only needs one more try on Saturday night to be on top.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here