Monday, October 22, 2007
What New Zealand Says About Our Win
Rugby: Deserved glory for Rainbow Nation
by Wynne Gray for the New Zealand Herald
In a ferocious World Cup final, where the most tension came from a protracted video replay decision, the Springboks added another title to the extra-time crown they won 12 years ago.
Both times they deserved their victory, both times they backed their discipline and defence - though the latter kept a clean sheet only when television official Stu Dickinson ruled England wing Mark Cueto had grazed the touchline with his boot.
It was a crucial call in such a tight contest and Dickinson took his time, studying the footage from several angles until he informed referee Alain Rolland it was no try.
The groans from the massed England supporters were as throaty as the pre-match misery for most of the 80,000 crowd who had to battle another snap strike from rail staff in Paris to make it to the Stade de France.
It was just after halftime when England centre Matthew Tait made one of the night's few decent breaks, cut through several tackles to the line, the ball was laid back and Cueto dived under Danie Rossouw's tackle attempt.
A try and England would have been only a point adrift, their morale would have risen even further, they would have sensed they had cut into the Springboks' self-belief.
Dickinson thought otherwise, though on the angles shown on the stadium screens it did seem Cueto's foot had bounced above rather than on the touchline as he slammed the ball in the corner.
England kicked a penalty from the move but in what ended as a tryless triumph to the Boks, the no-try decision will become a part of World Cup folklore.
There were a few other decisions from Rolland which were harsh on England, including a crossing ruling from which Francois Steyn kicked a long-range penalty to push his side beyond the converted try range with just the last quarter to run.
Much of the final was tough viewing, lots of kicking from both teams as they looked to find field position or get out of their own territory.
The two packs just bludgeoned each other throughout the match, England trying to bully their way through the middle and at the collisions, the Springboks smacking them back in tackles or counter-rucking.
If there was a significant difference it was the Springboks' lineout. England had an advantage in the scrums but they were not able to build as much pressure as the South African lineout.
Victor Matfield and his mates pinched England's first two lineout throws and they were able to consistently interfere with that area of the defending champions' game.
Just before halftime the results of a lineout mess allowed Percy Montgomery to kick a penalty and his side into a 9-3 lead and with 10 minutes left and South Africa only 15-6 ahead, England had a lineout throw on their opponents' line.
Towards the tail, Springbok loosie Juan Smith rose to steal the throw and his side was able to clear the danger. It was that sort of clarity under pressure which ensured the Springboks kept their unbeaten tournament record and earned the Webb Ellis Trophy.
It was a huge return for the team, for the leadership of John Smit, a perfect retort from coach Jake White after he was close to being sacked a year ago, a winner's medal for consultant Eddie Jones and a second decoration for retiring prop Os Du Randt.
He was part of Kitch Christie's victorious 1995 side and ends a remarkable career. He has seen many changes in South African rugby and next year, by many accounts, will have a lot more to test the country's rugby fibre.
But nothing will alter the 2007 history books for the Rainbow Nation - World Cup winners again.
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