Opinion: All Blacks player ratings for Rugby World Cup final against South Africa

OPINION: Mimosas were flying in frustration across the country on Sunday, after a World Cup final that ebbed and flowed on the basis of some questionable refereeing decisions, and featured more cards than Christmas Day.

Yet somehow - against all odds - the shorthanded All Blacks were still only a single agonising point shy of the Springboks at the last blast of referee Wayne Barnes' much-maligned whistle.

Result and TV official interventions aside, the prevailing sentiment among All Blacks fans seems to be one of pride and justifiably so.

So, who stood out for the men in black on the sport's biggest stage at Stade de France?

1-Ethan de Groot 7 

Went shoulder to shoulder with his big 'Boks opposites. Voracious appetite for the ball on the edges of the rucks.

Critical piece of an All Blacks front row that defied all odds to hold their own and then some against the 'Boks beefcakes.  

2-Codie Taylor 7

Showed the full gamut of his running game, simultaneously rambunctious and fleetfooted, exemplified in one memorable sideline burst. Not as crisp with his lineout targets as previous French outings, off the mark on three occasions including a pair in prime attacking position.

Piloted rolling mauls - as he does - and tackled like a scud. On the whole, a fitting end to a fantastic foray in France.  

Jordie Barrett.
Jordie Barrett. Photo credit: Getty Images

3-Tyrel Lomax 7

Eager as ever on both sides of the ball as part of an NZ front row that matched their vaunted heavyweight counterparts with aplomb. 

4-Brodie Retallick 7

Engaged in a fascinating aerial battle with Eben Etzebeth and guzzled his fair share of opposition ball. Had his offloads humming, keeping the 'Boks defence guessing at the point of attack.

Anchored the tight five. Used every last inch of horsepower, as he emptied the tank on his All Blacks career.

His beloved Belmont would be proud. 

5-Scott Barrett 6 

Somewhat outmuscled by opposite Malherbe, but warmed to his work and was part of a metronomically pinpoint lineout. Made a nuisance of himself, and mucked up a multitude of 'Boks rucks and mauls, but wasn't as prominent in open play as we've seen during some statement outings this season.

6-Shannon Frizell 7

Yellow-carded early for a hip drop on Bongi in a decision that was harsh, but probably fair, and cost NZ six points in his absence. Returned and immediately sought to make amends, reeling off brickwall runs like a man possessed, but didn’t spend as much time as he'd have liked on the right side of the advantage line. 

Ardie Savea.
Ardie Savea. Photo credit: Getty Images

7-Sam Cane 2

Ouch. Captain Cane's redemption arc came to the most jarring of halts at the Stade de France, with arguably the most costly indiscretion in All Blacks history. Regardless of your interpretation of the incident, Cane will go down as the only All Blacks captain to ever receive a red card - and it came in the 28th minute of a World Cup final.

A brutal conclusion to an imperious month of leadership in Europe, but he'll undoubtedly - and perhaps deservedly - garner plenty of sympathy, given the circumstances of his exit.

8-Ardie Savea 9

The most immense of his several immense displays in France. Took the captain's armband and stood up as the talismanic force the ABs desperately needed after Cane's departure.

Invaluable pressure release valve in exits. Quads busier than a Mangawhai Mr Whippy on New Years Day.

Demanded the pill and used it with authority on a staggering game-high 21 occasions. The best player on the planet. 

9-Aaron Smith 8

 In what will come as a surprise to nobody, stood up in his All Blacks swansong with a performance filled with massive mana. Asked to do a lot more with his boot and was, for the most part, on the mark with his boxkicks.

Made the best of some challenging service, as the 'Boks forwards spoiled plenty. Took the right option all day and deserved that disallowed try.

The decision to sub him with 15 minutes to play may go down in All Blacks infamy. 

Brodie Retallick pilfers a lineout.
Brodie Retallick pilfers a lineout. Photo credit: Getty Images

10-Richie Mo'unga 5

Not the most memorable farewell to the black jersey. A slew of handling errors and miscues, including blowing a platinum opportunity to free his outsides with the tryline beckoning early in second half.

Incredibly unfortunate to have a trademark moment of magic erased, when the try he created was called back for a knockon. Perhaps a sense of unfinished business will draw him back to black after his Japanese stint. 

11-Mark Telea 9

Death, taxes - and Mark Telea making a mockery of defenders and the advantage line. Quicker feet than Michael Flatley.

Flawless in the air, didn't shy away from some defensive toil. Danced his way out of a telephone box to create New Zealand's only try in a moment of inimitable magic.

Led the game in running metres (67). Gamebreaker personified.  

12-Jordie Barrett 8

Colossal. Involved in some mammoth collisions in both directions and gave no quarter.

Accurate under the bomb squad barrage. Outrageously good long-range dime for Telea to create the All Blacks' only try.

Made life miserable for his opposites, posing question after question, often operating as a pseudo loosie at the side o. His 'Beaver' moment wasn't to be, but it should take minimal gloss off a brilliant performance.  

Aaron Smith.
Aaron Smith. Photo credit: Getty Images

13-Rieko Ioane 7

Lived off Barrett's shoulder and thrived with some fearless lines, denied a try only by some stunning cover defence. Has come into his own as a defender at this tournament and continued that trend under the brightest lights in Paris.

A bonafide centre. Shut the book. 

14-Will Jordan 5

Well handled by the Boks, who softened their outside channel rush defence to excellent effect and essentially played him out of the game, avoiding kicking to his wing. Made some bizarrely uncharacteristic handling errors.

Couldn't add the most important exclamation point to his breakthrough tournament. 

15-Beauden Barrett 7

Very busy in the link play and had a lot of work to do under the bomb barrage, with mixed results. Fortunate one of them didn’t result in a try, as Siya Kolisi failed to find his support early in the second, after one of two quick spills.

Regardless, never afraid to tuck the ball and demanded plenty of the 'Boks line, second only to Telea for metres gained (65).  


16-Samisoni Taukei'aho 7

Picked up where Taylor left off, holding up a shorthanded pack. All hustle and bustle.

17-Tamaiti Williams 7

Size matters.

18-Nepo Laulala 7

Instantly added starch to the NZ scrum, which had the better late.

19-Sam Whitelock 7

The fairytale finish wasn't to be for the All Blacks' most-capped player, but he left it all on the park in his 153rd and final test outing. 

20-Dalton Papali'i 5

Put his shoulder to the grind.

21-Finlay Christie 5 

Thrown into the furnace with 15 minutes to play and took a few poor options. Should they have stuck with Smith's experience in that sort of situation? 

22-Damian McKenzie 6

Represented one final roll of the dice with a late cameo.

23-Anton Lienert-Brown 6

Straight into the mix. Rock solid defensively. In a different world, his deft offload that was penalised for that Barrett shot may have gone to hand - then, who knows? 

Stephen Foote is a Newshub online sports producer