The 2023 Rugby World Cup in France reaches its climax on Saturday night as New Zealand and South Africa fight for the title of global champions.
It’s the biggest rivalry in the international game and an opportunity for one of these giants to become the first country to claim a fourth World Cup crown.
Whether you’re an All Black or a Springbok, it’s time to strap in for the big one in Paris.
New Zealand vs South Africa in the RWC final
It all comes down to a Stade de France showpiece on Saturday, as New Zealand and South Africa meet in the 2023 Rugby World Cup final.
The pair are neck-and-neck on three global titles apiece, making for a fitting – not to mention high-octane – duel under the lights in Paris.
A marathon tournament that has seen the dying embers of summer turn to the Northern Hemisphere autumn, we’re once again presented with a pair of behemoths from the south in the big one.
South Africa made it to the grand finale by the skin of their teeth, squeaking past England in a rematch of the Springboks’ glorious conquest in the 2029 edition in Japan.
New Zealand had a much more straightforward time of it, battering Rugby Championship rivals Argentina into submission in a lopsided affair.
It’s a quirk that both of these mighty nations lost one of their group stage fixtures, adding a dose of jeopardy. But more than 50 days and nearly as many matches have come and gone since the All Blacks lost the tournament opener to France.
The Boks’ bruising at the hands of Ireland was also over a month ago and long since forgotten, one would expect.
But it is unlikely that the Boks will allow New Zealand forget that it was this very year that they handed them their biggest ever defeat when the Boks battered the 35-7 at Twickenham in August. And then there is the small matter of that dramatic 1995 Rugby World Cup final. For the uninitiated, newly rugby woo’d or simply not old enough to remember VHS tapes and Telkom’s R7 weekend deals, it might seem a bit odd to hark back that far.
When it comes head-to-head stats in Rugby World Cup finals, though, the equation is simple: South Africa 1, New Zealand 0. The context the underpinned that whole tournament needs a thesis on its own, but the tension will be palpable form Paris with a pitstop in Pretoria and right down to Porirua.
Buried beneath all that bluster, it seems almost irrelevant that the Springboks lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in France once before
In fact, in the grander context of almost none of the stuff on paper matters. It is what will be written on that paper – and the trophy – that will be the ultimate gut punch or gluttony heading into the early hours of Sunday morning.
RWC 2023 final: NZ and South Africa teams
Ian Foster, the coach of New Zealand, has tweaked his line-up with just two changes following their dominant 44-6 victory over Argentina. Brodie Retallick steps in for Samuel Whitelock in the second-row, and Nepo Laulala takes the bench spot from Fletcher Newell. Notably, the All Blacks’ starting backline remains the same as the one who suffered that record defeat against South Africa in August.
In contrast, South Africa’s head coach Jacques Nienaber made five adjustments to his squad after their nail-biting semi-final win over England. Two of these changes are in the starting XV, with three others affecting the 7-1 split bench.
Of the starting XV, ten stalwarts also featured in the Rugby World Cup 2019: Mbongeni Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen, Faf de Klerk, Handré Pollard, Damian de Allende, and Cheslin Kolbe. Steven Kitshoff and Franco Mostert, who were on the bench in 2019, start this time. Willie Le Roux, who started four years ago, is the only replacement back. RG Snyman is again on the bench, despite his try-scoring herocis against England.
New Zealand Starting XV: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11. Mark Tele’a, 11 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 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 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Dalton Papali’i, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
South Africa Starting XV: 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, (captain), 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.
RWC 2023: New Zealand vs South Africa prediction and kick off time
|Team 1||Win % 1||Win % 2||Team 2||Predicted margin|
|New Zealand||63.8%||36.2%||South Africa||5|
Kick Off Time: 21.00 on Saturday 28 October 2023.