South Africa were crowned world champions for the third time in Yokohama – here’s how they did it

2019 Rugby World Cup Final: England 12-32 South Africa


Played – 43

England wins – 15

South Africa wins – 26

Draws – 2

Did you know?

  • England’s starting XV had an average age of 27 years and 60 days, making it the youngest team to start a Rugby World Cup final in the professional era.
  • Ben Youngs and George Ford played together at nine and ten for the 34th time for England. No half-back partnership has played as much for England in the professional era.
  • Tom Curry and Sam Underhill are the youngest flankers to ever start together in a Rugby World Cup final, averaging 22 years and 121 days.
  • Eddie Jones is the first foreign coach to lead any nation to a RWC final.
  • Siya Kolisi played in his 50th Test for South Africa.
  • Frans Steyn has won all 17 of the Rugby World Cup matches he has played in – now the most without ever suffering a loss after Sonny Bill Williams (17 RWC wins) and Sam Whitelock (18) were part of the New Zealand team beaten by England last weekend.
  • Steyn is the second person to win two World Cups 12 years apart after fellow Springbok Os du Randt (1995 and 2007).
  • 2019 Rugby World Cup Final: England v South Africa

    Flashback: South Africa’s Frans Steyn in action against England in the 2007 final (Getty Images)

In A Nutshell

South Africa are world champions for a third time after what was, in the end, a comfortable victory over favourites England in the final in Yokohama.

Where England shut down the All Blacks last week, the Springboks did the same to them this week. They could find no chink in the Boks defence, no space to release runners into. They had to work hard to get an inch over the gain-line and after Handre Pollard had built a lead through his boot, the wide men Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe added the flourish with tries in the last 15 minutes.

England conceded a penalty after just 41 seconds and while Pollard missed the kick, another blow quickly followed for the team in white. As Kyle Sinckler went to tackle Mapimpi, he made contact with Maro Itoje’s elbow and appeared to be knocked out.

2019 Rugby World Cup Final: England v South Africa

Early blow: Kyle Sinckler (3) was injured in this tackle on Makazole Mapimpi after three minutes (Getty Images)

Three minutes gone and Dan Cole was on at tighthead – and he endured a torrid evening at the scrum as Tendai Mtawarira secured numerous first-half penalties at the set-piece for the Springboks.

After missing the first, Pollard slotted four kicks to put the Boks 12-6 up by half-time – two of those coming direct from the scrum.

England did build attacks of their own when kicking for touch from penalties, but the Boks defence held firm. Kolbe made an important tackle on Courtney Lawes midway through the first half when England had a big overlap out wide. He conceded a penalty – slotted by Owen Farrell – but not the try.

England came again after half an hour with a concerted four-minute spell in the Boks’ 22 and got close to the line through hard carries from the forwards. Again they had to make do with a penalty rather than a try.

2019 Rugby World Cup Final: England v South Africa

On target: Handre Pollard kicks a penalty in the final (Getty Images)

George Kuris arrived after the break in place of Courtney Lawes but the Boks extended their lead following another scrum penalty. Then on came Joe Marler for Mako Vunipola and South Africa got yet another scrum penalty, although this one wasn’t kickable. But at the next scrum it was England who got the penalty and Farrell duly put it through the posts.

It was nip-and-tuck with penalties going to either side. Pollard and Farrell both slotted one and missed one to make it 18-12 to the Boks after an hour.

Then came the key moment. Ben Youngs cleared downfield and Mark Wilson chased down to tackle the receiver, but the ball was spread to Mapimpi on the blindside quickly and he kicked into space in the England 22. The ball bounced up for Lukhanyo Am, who passed back inside for Mapimpi to score.

It was an uphill task for England at 25-12 with ten minutes to go. They tried to put more pace on the ball and spread it wide but the Springbok defence remained firm and England’s knock-ons did not help.

One such spill led to Kolbe attacking in space down the wing. He beat Farrell’s attempted tackle and glided over the line to put the game beyond England’s reach.

Star Man

He may have been replaced early in the second half but Tendai Mtawarira had already done enough damage to put South Africa in the ascendency. He put pressure on Dan Cole from the off at the scrum and the Springboks secured numerous penalties at the set-piece, which allowed them to build a lead on the scoreboard. England felt he was coming in at an angle, but Jerome Garces disagreed and it’s really own the referee’s opinion that matters.

2019 Rugby World Cup Final: England v South Africa

Contest: The scrum led to penalties for both teams during the match (Getty Images)

The Reaction

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi: “I honestly can’t explain how it felt (lifting the trophy), but to see the joy on my team-mates’ faces was the best thing for me because I know how hard they’ve worked.

“The coach said how proud we are as South Africans and not many people gave us a chance, so we had to believe in each other. It drove us to work hard and go to places we hadn’t been before. I’d never seen such support, all the videos from back home. It was really beautiful for us to see. It’s an amazing day for our country.”

England coach Eddie Jones: “I’m not sure why we didn’t play well today. That’s something that sometimes happens at high level of rugby. We’re definitely disappointed but at the same time I’ve great admiration for what the players did, how hard they’ve worked. I’ve so much respect for them. It’s not through lack of effort.”

The Teams

England: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May (Jonathan Joseph 70); George Ford (Henry Slade 50), Ben Youngs (Ben Spencer 75); Mako Vunipola (Joe Marler 46), Jamie George (Luke Cowan-Dickie 60), Kyle Sinckler (Dan Cole 3), Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes (George Kruis h-t), Tom Curry, Sam Underhill (Mark Wilson 60), Billy Vunipola.

Pens: Farrell 4.

South Africa: Willie le Roux (Frans Steyn 67); Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian De Allende, Makazole Mapimpi; Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk (Herschel Jantjies 77); Tendai Mtawarira (Steven Kitshoff 44), Mbongeni Mbonambi (Malcolm Marx 22), Frans Malherbe (Vincent Koch 44), Eben Etzebeth (RG Snyman 60), Lood de Jager (Franco Mostert 22), Siya Kolisi (captain, Francois Louw 64), Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Duane Vermeulen.

Tries: Mapimpi 66, Kolbe 74. Cons: Pollard 2. Pens: Pollard 6.

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