Handre Pollard kicked four penalties to help South Africa to a nail-biting 12-11 victory over 14-man New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday to claim a record fourth title.
As is so often the case with finals, the match was a tight, edgy encounter at a rain-soaked Stade de France where defence ruled and the All Blacks lost captain Sam Cane to a first-half red card for a high tackle.
But the Springboks prevailed to win a third successive knockout match in this tournament by a point and add to their titles in 1995, 2007 and 2019.
Player of the match Pieter-Steph du Toit said: “The last three games have been quite tough, each one we have played has been a final and each one we have won by one point.
“As a team we like drama. It has helped us through the last few years, it shows the resilience of this team.
“We are honoured to play for the whole of South Africa and the Springboks. When we go back home it will be a warm welcome for us.”
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi added: “Honestly, people who are not from South Africa don’t understand what this means for our country.
“It’s not just about the game on the field. Our country goes through such a lot. We are the hope they have.”
The game, with tennis stars Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic among the 80,000 spectators, got off to a dramatic start.
All Black flanker Shannon Frizell was yellow carded by referee Wayne Barnes after just two minutes for an illegal ruck clearout that saw Bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi, the sole specialist number two in the squad, leave the pitch with an injured right knee.
Pollard kicked the penalty as Deon Fourie, a 37-year-old flanker, replaced Mbonambi, who was cleared earlier in the week of using a racial slur against England flanker Tom Curry in the semi-final.
Pollard, who kicked 22 points in South Africa’s final victory over England four years ago in Japan, booted a second penalty after Codie Taylor failed to roll away in a ruck.
The opening quarter was not for the faint-hearted, each side delivering a succession of eye-watering hits as the Boks, whose aggressive defence was led by the outstanding Du Toit, pinned the All Blacks in their own territory.
A late Faf de Klerk hit on Mark Tele’a saw Jordie Barrett kick for the corner and from a series of drives, the Boks infringed and Richie Mo’unga got the All Blacks on the scoreboard with an easy penalty.
Pollard hit straight back after Ardie Savea flopped over a ruck, connecting perfectly to convert a monster 49-metre effort.
New Zealand’s woes were compounded when Cane was yellow-carded in the 29th minute for a high tackle on Jesse Kriel, later upgraded to red for a high degree of danger with no mitigation, according to the television match official.
Cane became the first player to be shown a red card in a World Cup final and the All Blacks were reduced to 14 men for 46 minutes.
A dejected Cane said afterwards he was “extremely gutted and disappointed”.
“The boys had to play with 14 men for the last 50-odd minutes. I thought the courage that they showed out there was incredible. The whole team are absolute warriors.”
As the game approached half-time, yet another punishing hit by Du Toit, this time on Will Jordan, piled the pressure back on New Zealand and Pollard kicked his fourth penalty.
Mo’unga kicked over a second penalty to make it 12-6 and the All Blacks trudged off without their skipper and in the knowledge that no team has ever come back from behind at half-time to win a final.
South Africa then spurned two clear try-scoring chances.
Firstly, Siya Kolisi was guilty of butchering a clear five-pointer seconds into the second period, keeping hold of the ball as the whitewash beckoned despite Cheslin Kolbe racing up inside and Kriel on the flank.
Kurt-Lee Arendse then went close, just failing to gather a Kolbe grubber.
Kolisi was rightly yellow carded for a high tackle on Savea, who led the All Black charge back up the pitch, Mo’unga spilling the ball in a rare attack after Tele’a had taken a towering up-and-under.
Another All Black kick to the corner eventually paid off as the ball was recycled left to Tele’a, who beat three men before offloading, Beauden Barrett scooping up the ball to dot down.
Mo’unga missed the touchline conversion but the game was suddenly a one-point affair.
Kolbe’s ambitious 50-metre drop-goal fell well short as both sides looked for an opening to close down the game.
The winger was shown yellow for a deliberate knock-down of an Anton Lienert-Brown pass which meant the two teams finished with 14 players.
Jordie Barrett, however, pushed the long-range penalty wide as the game entered a nerve-shredding final six minutes.
Another Du Toit hit on Barrett and a perfectly-timed De Klerk tap tackle on Dalton Papali’i in the dying moments were enough to see South Africa bag back-to-back titles and their fourth.
Sabalenka to play in Brisbane
Aryna Sabalenka will launch preparations for the defence of her Australian Open crown by playing at the Brisbane International, organisers said on Tuesday.
Elena Rybakina – beaten by Sabalenka in the final in Melbourne at the start of this year – will also play at the December 31-January 7 Brisbane event.
Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka was already named in the field as she returns to tennis.
“I’m excited about starting my 2024 Australian season in Brisbane,” world number two Sabalenka said in a statement released by organisers.
“Australia holds a special place in my heart after winning my first Grand Slam there.”
Tournament director Cam Pearson said he was looking forward to welcoming the Belarusian Sabalenka and Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, who is fourth in the world.
“We all remember the exciting Australian Open final the girls played at the start of the year,” he told a news conference.
“That has really kicked off what is a pretty exciting rivalry between the two players.”
On the men’s side, fast-rising world number 17 Ben Shelton of the United States will join a draw that also includes three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray.
Pearson said he would welcome Australian Nick Kyrgios to the tournament if he recovers from injury in time.
“We would love to have him here, he’s a past champion and a fan favourite but he needs to do what’s best for him and his recovery,” he said.
“If that means he’s playing in January, fantastic.”
Kyrgios had knee surgery in January and then aborted comeback plans at Wimbledon after tearing a ligament in his wrist.
Giro fail to reclaim top La Liga spot
Surprise package Girona failed to return to the top of La Liga on Monday after they were held 1-1 at home by Athletic Bilbao.
Winger Viktor Tsygankov put the hosts ahead 10 minutes after half time but Inaki Williams scored 12 minutes later to claim a point for the away side.
Girona trail league leaders Real Madrid on goal difference after dropping points for just the third time this season, while Athletic climbed to fifth spot.
Athletic had the better of the first half and their best chance fell to Gorka Guruzeta but the striker poked his shot straight at Girona goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
Girona had early chances of their own including an Aleix Garcia volley, which he skied over the crossbar, but did not find the rhythm they have found so often this season.
After the break, the hosts broke the deadlock when Tsygankov rifled home.
Williams, who started on the opposite wing from his brother Nico, equalised from a counter-attacking move that started in Athletic’s own box.
The wide man finished smoothly for his sixth league goal of the season as the Basques went looking for their third straight win.
With 10 minutes left, Inaki Williams came close to finding the winner as he cut in from the left but his shot was parried by Gazzaniga.
Inaki Williams was replaced in the final minute of normal time for youngster Adu Ares, but both sides were forced to settle for a point.
On Sunday, Rodrygo sent Real Madrid top with a double in 3-0 win at Cadiz.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid are four points clear of fourth-placed Barcelona, who drew 1-1 at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
PCB announces Pakistan team management for Australia tour
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have announced the Team Management for the upcoming Test tour to Australia, which is scheduled to take place from December 2023 to January 2024. They will be playing three Test matches in Australia.
Former England cricketer Adam Hollioake has been hired as the batting coach. Hollioake played four Tests and 35 ODIs for England. The 52-year-old transitioned into coaching, contributing his expertise to the England Lions team. His coaching abilities were further recognized when he was enlisted to join England’s coaching staff for the final two Ashes Tests during the 2021-22 series.
Meanwhile, Simon Grant Helmot will serve as the high performance coach on the tour. Helmot is an Australian cricket coach, who was formerly the coach of the Melbourne Renegades in Big Bash League.
Last week, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal were announced as fast-bowling and spin bowling coaches, respectively, for the Pakistan team.
Naveed Akram Cheema (Team manager), Mohammad Hafeez (Director – Pakistan men’s cricket team), Adam Hollioake (batting coach), Simon Grant Helmot (high performance coach), Umar Gul (fast bowling coach), Saeed Ajmal (spin bowling coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Mansoor Rana (assistant team manager), Shahid Aslam (assistant batting coach), Drikus Saaiman (strength and conditioning coach/Trainer), Cliffe Deacon (physiotherapist), Talha Ejaz (team analyst), Lt Col (Rtd) Akhtar Hussain (security manager), Raza Rashid Kitchlew (media manager), Ammar Ahsan (videographer), Dr Sohail Saleem (team doctor) and Malang Ali (team masseur).
The Pakistan cricket team will play their first Test match against Australia in Perth from 14 to 18 December, followed by a Test match in Melbourne, from 26 to 30 December. Sydney will host the last game of the tour from 3 to 7 January, 2024.
The squad is set to depart from Lahore on 30 November.
Pakistan squad for Australia Tests: Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi.
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