South Africa laid the groundwork with traditional Springbok rugby and finished off an out-gunned England side with two superbly-taken late tries to win the World Cup for the third time courtesy of a convincing 32-12 victory on Saturday.
Wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe crossed in the last 15 minutes for South Africa’s first ever tries in a World Cup final but six penalties from the boot of Handre Pollard had already put the Springboks firmly in charge.
Superb game management, set piece dominance, brutal defence and almost flawless place-kicking had been enough to see off an England side that had dismantled the double defending champion All Blacks in the semi-finals last week.
While the tactics were as traditional as the dark green Springbok shirt, the team was far more representative of a multi-racial nation than those of 1995 and 2007 and Siya Kolisi became the first black captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
“Since I have been alive I have not seen South Africa like this,” Kolisi said before receiving the trophy from Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino.
“It was like in ’95. So many challenges we have (in South Africa). The coach told us we are not playing for ourselves, we are playing for the people back home.
“We appreciate all the support, we love you, South Africa, and we can achieve anything if we work together.”
England came into the match with huge expectations after the New Zealand win but were as outplayed in all departments by the South Africans, just as the All Blacks were last week.
Eddie Jones, who was in charge of Australia when England won their only World Cup in 2003, became the first head coach to lose two finals.
“We just struggled to get in the game,” said Jones. “The effort from players was outstanding but we struggled to get on the front foot today.
“I can’t fault the preparation of the players. They worked hard for the whole of the World Cup, played with a lot of passion, but we just weren’t good enough today.”
Flyhalf Farrell kicked four penalties for England but they were chasing the match all evening and hanging on doggedly trying to contain the rampant Springboks by the end.
The English had suffered a huge blow when prop Kyle Sinckler went off with concussion in the third minute leaving their scrum all but uncompetitive against the Springbok pack.
South Africa made the most of the weakness, winning a string of scrum penalties and taking a 12-6 lead into halftime whilst building a foundation that enabled their wingers to seal the victory in the last 15 minutes.
Mapimpi has been in prolific form this year and he showed South African wingers can play a bit with ball in hand when he chipped-through, collected an offload from Lukhanyo Am and touched down for his sixth try of the tournament in the 66th minute.
The elusive Kolbe added the second try, his third of the tournament, eight minutes later, skipping past the tackle of Owen Farrell on the wing and racing away to the delight of the South Africans in the crowd of 70,103.
Pollard, who ran the game with livewire scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, coolly landed both conversions to take his match tally to 22 points.
The Springboks became the first team to lose a pool match at a World Cup and go on to win it, having gone down to the All Blacks in their tournament opener at the same Yokohama International Stadium.
They join the New Zealanders with three World Cup triumphs and England remain the only team from the northern hemisphere to have won the title in nine editions.
South Africa’s achievement is all the more remarkable as they were unable to play in the first two editions because of sporting sanctions in place because of the apartheid system.
The Springboks, as has become the tradition at Asia’s first World Cup, lined up on the dead ball line and bowed to the crowd after collecting the trophy.
“We are doing it for each other but also for 57 million people back home in South Africa,” said number eight Duane Vermeulen, who was named man of the match.
“In a way, we wanted to be consistent as a team. We wanted to create hope in the end and hopefully we achieved that tonight.”