Rugby World Cup 2023 final: New Zealand v South Africa – live | Rugby World Cup 2023

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Key events

YELLOW CARD! Siya Kolis (South Africa)

45 mins. Kolisi flies into a tackle on Frizell and it looks like it’s head on head so Ref Barnes sends the Bok captain off for a bunker review.

I reckon this will stay yellow as Kolisi was bent at the waist and the initial contact was shoulder into chest. If that does happen we will hear the howls from New Zealand in Paris.

44 mins. Possession is untidy from a Bok scrum, but De Klerk still manages to get the ball moving right as the green attack again works right for an angled kick that Arendse can chase. It looks to be going into touch before Arendse lightning bolts onto it and very nearly gets it down, but his foot in just in touch and he can’t hold the ball.

42 mins. After receiving a kick return from the restart Pollard launches one towards Barrett who makes a total mess of it, allowing it to be tapped back to Kolisi who rumbles into the 22. There was no obvious pass on, so the captain is hauled down and pops to De Allende who drives over the line but is held up by the All Blacks scrambling defence.

That really would have been the game.

Second Half!

Handré Pollard boots us back into action

Terence Green emails.

“Once again, Wayne Barnes has managed to ruin what should be a fantastic exhibition for the game of rugby and has made it all about himself. It’s a disgrace.”

To be fair to Barnes he gave a yellow card for an upright shoulder-to-head tackle and asked the bunker to review it. The only way his decision could be questioned is if you believe that Cane tackle was not at least a yellow card. Which is a stretch.

Some rugby happened but all that will be discussed is the red card. All those discussions will mean little to the players facing the next 40 minutes, particularly those All Blacks who must now overturn the weight of historical results to become the first team to overturn a half-time deficit in a World Cup Final. And they must do it a man down and without their captain.

Imagine the documentaries that will be made if they manage to do it.

HALF TIME! New Zealand 6 -12 South Africa

40 mins. Some fitful possession from both teams in the final few minutes of the half comes to nought.

PENALTY! New Zealand 6 – 12 South Africa (Richie Mo’unga)

37 mins. The All Blacks don’t let the shock of those few minutes affect their desire, and Telea puts in a canny carry from the base of a ruck and into the Bok 22. On the quickly recycled possession Etzebeth is offside as a lazy runner. NZ can’t capitalise on the advantage, they move the ball left but and Ioane is forced into touch near the line.

The play comes back to the original offence and Mo’unga adds to the total.

Rieko Ioane is bundled out just short of the line.
Rieko Ioane is bundled out just short of the line. Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

PENALTY! New Zealand 3 – 12 South Africa (Handré Pollard)

33 mins. In the midst of all that, NZ were offside on the 22 and Pollard extends the lead.

RED CARD! Sam Cane (New Zealand)

32 mins. The Cane yellow has been upgraded to the first ever red card in a World Cup final.

The deciding factor appears to be that the NZ captain was very upright, with no bend to tackle at all. This lack of an attempt to lower his tackling height ultimately means mitigation was difficult for the bunker to argue.

Sam Cane  looks dejected after an initial yellow card was upgraded to a red card.
Game over, Sam. Photograph: David Ramos/World Rugby/Getty Images

31 mins. Oh hello, SA have decided it’s time to show some moves. From a scrum on halfway, Vermeulen picks and runs, feeds De Klerk who moves it though the hands to Kolbe arcing off his wing who slides a diagonal grubber towards the corner for Arendse to chase. It just drifts into touch as Beauden Barrett covers across.

@bloodandmud Guten Abend from Germany!
So glad rugby is becoming ever more popular here…

— carys 🇪🇺🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿🇩🇪🇦🇺🇲🇾 (@omica64) October 28, 2023

We should all be very worried if it really takes off, Carys.

YELLOW CARD! Sam Cane (New Zealand)

28 mins. The NZ captain moves in to tackle Kriel very upright and his shoulder meets the Bok centre’s head pretty full on. He’s sent for a ten minute minimum while the offence is reviewed by the bunker.

Kriel was dropping in height a bit and did change direction towards Cane late. For those reasons, I fancy it will stay yellow

27 mins. Etzebeth gets up and spoils the NZ lineout again but this time is was down to him illegally pulling at Retallick’s arm in the air. Codie Taylor has another chance to hit his man in the Bok 22 and he completely overthrows it. And it’s not straight, either. Oh dear.

23 mins. I spoke too soon. Mo-unga calls for the ball on the second phase and booms it high on to the Bok 22. It bounces about before Willemse claims it but not without being quickly rammed into touch.

However, the position is lost as a flying Etzebeth nicks the ball from the NZ lineout.

21 mins. Moisture be damned, the All Blacks are playing the ball across the backline on first phase once more, but the SA defence is up in their collective grill at pace which hurries Will Jordan to snatch at the ball and spill it.

A pattern for the match appears to be settling in; SA two carries and kick, NZ trying to work the field via hands.

Tyrel Lomax passes the ball
Tyrel Lomax gets the All Blacks moving. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

PENALTY! New Zealand 3 – 9 South Africa (Handré Pollard)

18 mins. Duane Vermeulen has his first strong carry in the loose and while Savea does a decent job of stopping him, the NZ No8 didn’t clearly release his opposite number before going back in for the ball.

Handré Pollard does the necessary from 4o metres.

PENALTY! New Zealand 3 – 6 South Africa (Richie Mo’unga)

16 mins. A tackle off the ball by De Klerk gives NZ the opportunity to kick into Bok territory and their first entry in the 22 garners a penalty for South Africa drifting offside.

Richie Mo’unga takes full advantage.

13 mins. Shannon Frizell’s leg-knacking of Mbonambi is ruled accidental, so his card remains a yellow and he returns to the field.

PENALTY! New Zealand 0 – 6 South Africa (Handre Pollard)

12 mins. From the lineout, South Africa pile into the NZ defensive line with multiple carries before the work it left Kolbe who darts inside before Codie Taylor is penalised for being off his feet.

Pollard adds three more points.

10 mins. A darting run on a kick return from Kolbe has him slicing a kick on the run under huge pressure from Scott Barrett, but it turns into a beautiful cross-kick to Willemse who dinks the ball forward and forces Beauden Barrett to run into touch in his 22.

“Let’s put that Frizell offence this way; I’d rather he punched square in the chops than someone flopping down on my awkwardly outstretched leg. Every day of week. Red for me.” says Hugh Molloy.

7 mins. NZ are working some phases but the South Africa defence is pressuring and causing some imprecision in contact. This is allowing the Boks some territory and the latest possession has a Pollard kick dropping onto Mo’unga in the 22 with Kolbe very close to grabbing it, but he tips it forward.

We still await the decision on the final status of the Frizell card.

Bongi Mbonambi has left the field following that injury and is replaced by Deon Fourie, who lest we forget is not even a hooker.

PENALTY! New Zealand 0 – 3 South Africa (Handre Pollard)

3 mins. Pollard tees it up and pulls it a bit, but it bounces off the post the right side to go over and score the first points of the match.

Handre Pollard kicks a penalty
Handre Pollard kicks the first points of the final. Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

YELLOW CARD! Shannon Frizell (New Zealand)

2 mins. Damian Willemse returns the ball to touch after receiving the kick off and from the lineout the All Blacks run a neat and tidy first phase pattern in the backs. It looks pretty, but it’s lateral so Will Jordan kicks it away.

On the return, Mbonambi is down and looking badly knocked after Shannon Frizell pulled him off a ruck. As play moved on Etzebeth put an ancestor-rattling legal hit on Mo’unga.

There’s a suggestion Frizell sat on Mbonambi’s standing leg so Ref Barnes takes a look and send the NZ flanker to the bin for a card review. He may not come back at all.

Mbongeni Mbonambi lies injured
Bad news for the Springbocks. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Kick Off!

The ball is airborne from Beauden Barrett’s boot and the Rugby World Cup Final 2023 is under way

Anthems are sung before Aaron Smith does his usual job of leading the haka, but with some increased emotion in this his final appearance in the Black.

The final Haka of the tournament.
The final Haka of the tournament. Photograph: Benoît Tessier/Reuters

The teams file into the tunnel, Sam Cane with a face like thunder at the head of the All Blacks line while Siya Kolisi is smiling and singing.

They are given the nod and move forward into the pulsating noise and lights of the Stade de France.

@bloodandmud Greetings from Zambia. As a Welshman, I’m just hoping for a good match tonight. One thing I wil miss about the world cup finishing is the cheesy ads on South African TV. The insurance ad featuring Faf de Klerk is very odd! I predict SA by less than 10 pts.

— Stephen Bickers (@stephenbickers) October 28, 2023

Scott Blair also has a sensible question

“Just about everybody seems to agree it’ll be a close one. Maybe worth running through what happens if it’s a draw after 80 minutes?”

If it’s level on the final whistle, the following will occur:

  • Two 10-minute periods of extra time (like in 2003)

  • If it remains level, a period of golden point time where the first to score wins

  • If it’s still not sorted after that, then it’s a dreaded kicking competition, with 5 players nominated to take kicks at goal from three different places on the 22m line.

  • Still no winner? Sudden death kicks until someone misses or presumably the first squad to collapse with exhaustion.

Elsewhere in The Rugby

Leicester have put some brakes on the strong domestic start by Bath. Read more here

A sensible question…

It is honking it down in Paris, Sandy. Proper autumnal rugby conditions in northern Europe. If this were a horse race the going would be soft, most certainly.

@bloodandmud Not much between these 2 too close 2 call. A kick or 2 no more will b the difference. The Boks won’t get away with a slow start like in the semi so both sides will b switched on & full belt right from the off. It’ll be carnage out there, love it. Savage Test incoming

— John McEnerney (@MackerOnTheMed) October 28, 2023

It’s interesting to consider how this will pan out as you say, John. South Africa arrive here having spent much time behind and scrapping before their unique combination of nous, physicality and bloody-mindedness has won out; while New Zealand have belted out from the front, dominated the breakdown and created plenty.

Unlike South Africa’s other knockout opponents, France and England, one factor the All Blacks have in their favour is their low error count (so far). They are likely to make the Boks work even harder for points than in previous matches, while not struggling to keep the scoreboard ticking along themselves. This is an issue Rassie and Jacques will no doubt have a plan to overcome.

The most obvious part of the plan is having seven forwards on the bench so the team can go full TurboBeast for the full eighty.

If history has taught us anything, no one approach to rugby union football is the right way, but one way is going to win in Paris in the next few hours.

South Africa fans look forward to the match
Excitement builds, for some, in Paris. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian
A New Zealand fan dressed as a kiwi
Go Kiwi’s! Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Flashback to when it last went down

It’s nearly 30 years since South Africa and New Zealand last faced each other in a World Cup final, the Springboks winning 15–12 in Johannesburg to unite a post-apartheid South Africa as the Rainbow Nation.

The Guardian’s Richard Williams was in Johannesburg to report on the momentous fixture, and you can revisit his match report here

Match Officials

It’s an all-English panel of disciplinarians out there and in the video booth, with Wayne Barnes deservedly getting the nod for his first World Cup Final.

What price on another Karl Dickson takeover?

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)

Referee Wayne Barnes is in the house.
Referee Wayne Barnes is in the house. Photograph: Adam Pretty/World Rugby/Getty Images

A tweet from Aotearoa..

@bloodandmud The sun’s not been up long here in Wellington. The air is cold, but remarkably calm. Big ol’ mug of tea in hand, I’m ready for kick off. Let’s hope it’s yesterday and good night for SA.

— Paul Cockburn now also (@PaulInPorirua) October 28, 2023

Pre match reading to calm the nerves


New Zealand bring Brodie Retallick back at the expense of Sam Whitelock, the only change to the XV that marmalised Argentina in the semi-final.

Jacques Nienaber makes two switches to his starting lineup as the 2019 winning halfback paring of Faf De Klerk and Handré Pollard is preferred to Cobus Reinach and Manie Libbok. That pair can look forward to playing a full 80 minutes as 7:1 bench split has made a risky return, meaning Willie Le Roux is the only backs cover on the bench.

The starting XVs have a combined total of nearly 2000 caps, experience that will come in handy when the adrenaline kicks in.

New Zealand:
15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Dalton Papali’i, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

South Africa:
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 RG Snyman, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Jasper Wiese, 23 Willie le Roux

How are you doing out there? Let me have all your thoughts on this enormous clash via the Email or you can tweet @bloodandmud


Eight weeks and it all comes down to this: the fiercest rivalry in the sport of rugby union competing for the right to hoist the Rugby World Cup and hold the title for four more years.

In this era of multiple international matches and mundanely titled tournaments dotted about the calendar, it could be tempting to consign another match between New Zealand and South Africa into the “yeah, so what?” column; but in this case that would be erroneous. For starters this is a World Cup Final and that’s before we consider the context. This is the first meeting at this stage of the competition since the Bok victory in 1995 – Joel Stransky and all that – and rumours and insinuations have abounded for years about the condition of the All Black team for that match and the reasons for it. Whatever tenuous link to the truth these tales hold, the sense of a wrong to be righted on the NZ side has persisted and today presents their first opportunity to expunge that failure.

In the afterglow of the 2019 victory in 2019, Rassie Erasmus said, “We have to use this to build for next six, seven, eight years, we have to use this to put South African rugby back at the top”. The victory over the British & Irish Lions in 2021 put them right up there, but a victory here would allow them official entrance to the pantheon because for the Springboks this match presents an opportunity for immortality. The 2011-2015 All Blacks, the best team the sport has ever produced, are the only squad to have retained a Rugby World Cup. Siya Kolisi and his men could match that achievement today.

Since the last World Cup, the sides have played one other six times taking three victories a piece and each side has also already lost a game in the tournament. Whoever triumphs here becomes the first team to take a fourth title.

What I’m saying is that it could not better poised as an occasion or narrative, OK?

Settle yourselves in, this one will be the business.

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