RWC 2023 Final Preview

So here we are after 6 weeks, it’s down to two. South Africa and New Zealand will face off in the World Cup Final. 28 years on from the last time when South Africa defeated the land of the long white cloud in the 95 Final.

The renewal this year will be special, firstly not many would have predicted that in particular France wouldn’t be there on the last night and especially after beating the finalists New Zealand on opening night and then South Africa lost out to Ireland on a tight 13-8 score line but alas that is not how sport works and the cream always rises.

After 4 tight quarter finals and then in South Africa’s case a tough semi final, one feels we have the right pairing in another edition of the World Cup. It will again be a southern hemisphere winner and the northern hemisphere will have to wait another 4 years to see who might join England from 2003 as the next northern hemisphere winner.

Both New Zealand and South Africa will be looking to put their name on the trophy for a 4th time. For all the talk of France, Ireland or someone coming from the pack to challenge the pecking order has gone by the way side and even though people will say both teams came close to going out, New Zealand against Ireland in the QF winning by 4 points, 28-24 and South Africa kicking a late penalty to vanquish England.

The reality is that the defending champions and the previous winner of the competition are back where they feel they always will be and that’s in the World Cup final. It should be a good final and even if the weather dictates tactics it will still be a good game and hopefully one fitting of the biggest game in rugby union….

New Zealand have come from the apparent crisis of summer 2022 to first win the Rugby Championship of 2023 to signal there intent and now only 80 minutes away from another World Cup win. For a number of current All Blacks this will mark the end of their time in the black jersey, the likes of Beauden Barrett, Sam Whitelock and Aaron Smith to name three men who will end there time in black on Saturday evening.

A similar situation will of course be the case for a few wearing green also, like Duane Vermuelan and Deon Fourie. So there is a plenty to play for on both sides and this will be the ideal way to end their careers in their respective national jerseys.

Both coaching teams will have a few interesting choices to make when selecting the 23s for Saturday. Will Manie Libbock see off Handre Pollard for the 10 jersey and for the All Blacks will Mark Telea be in the number 11 shirt over Leicester Fainga’anuku, interesting choices on both sides.

Both coaching teams will also be leaving for pastures new post France with Ian Foster being replaced by Scott Robertson and Jacques Nienber will leave his role to come to Leinster. Will Rassie Erasmus continue his role or look for a new challenge. I feel that South Africa will look for a new direction to try and lead them to Australia in 2027.

For both sides, Saturday will mark the end of the road for a number of key people and no better way than to end that journey than with the William Webb Ellis Cup. I will now do what Rassie Erasmus did last week and I’ll select the 23s of both teams…. I predict a New Zealand win on Saturday….

South Africa XV :

15 Damian Williemese

14 Kurt Lee Arendse

13 Jessie Kriel

12 Damian De Allende

11 Cheslin Kolbe

10 Handre Pollard

9 Cobus Reinarch

8 Duane Vermuelan

7 Peter Steph Du Toit

6 Siya Kolisi

5 Franco Mostert

4 Eben Etzebeth

3 Frans Malherbe

2 Mbongeni Mbonambi

1 Steven Kitshoff

16 Deon Fourie

17 Ox Nche

18 Vincent Koch

19 RG Snyman

20 Jasper Wiese

21 Faf De Klerk

22 Manie Libbock

23 Canon Moodie

New Zealand XV

15 Beauden Barrett

14 Will Jordan

13 Reiko Ioane

12 Jordie Barrett

11 Mark Telea

10 Richie Mo’unga

9 Aaron Smith

8 Ardie Savea

7 Sam Cane

6 Shannon Frizell

5 Brodie Retallick

4 Sam Whitelock

3 Tyrell Lomax

2 Codie Taylor

1 Ethan De Groot

16 Dane Coles

17 Ofa Tungafasi

18 Fletcher Newell

19 Dalton Papalii

20 Luke Jacobson

21 Finlay Christie

22 Damian Mackenzie

23 Anton Leniert Brown

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