South Africa survived a courageous fightback from 14-man New Zealand to claim a record fourth Rugby World Cup title courtesy of a 12-11 victory at the Stade de France on Saturday night.
The All Blacks were given a mountain to climb when captain Sam Cane was sent off for a high tackle in a bruising and pulsating contest but they never let their numerical disadvantage show, though ultimately it was the boot of Handre Pollard – who scored four penalties – that decided the match.
Within just two minutes of kick-off there was a moment that would dramatically alter the final, with New Zealand’s Shannon Frizell adjudged to have fallen onto – but, crucially, not targeted – the leg of Bongi Mbonambi.
The hooker’s knee buckled under the weight of the Kiwi and, after extensive treatment, the South African talisman was forced off in an enormous early blow to the holders.
Frizell was sent to the sin bin and Pollard converted the resulting penalty, but South Africa surely would have traded those three points if it meant Mbonambi was still on the pitch.
South Africa only added another three points to the scoreboard by the time Frizell returned, with the two sides then trading penalties, before the contest produced another pivotal moment.
All Blacks skipper Cane was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on centre Jesse Kriel but the TMO adjudged that there was a ‘high degree of danger and no mitigation’ and the punishment
…. to be continued
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