Rugby World Cup: All Blacks, Springboks rivalry takes centrestage in blockbuster final

After seven weeks and 46 games, the 2023 Rugby World Cup will be contested by two of the game's fiercest rivals.

Twenty-eight years on from South Africa's victory in the 1995 final, they will again meet the All Blacks in the decider, with both sides out for a record fourth Webb Ellis Cup.

On one side sit New Zealands, who have peaked at the perfect time, as they bid to send off a core of greats and coach Ian Foster.

Richie Mo'unga against South Africa at Twickenham.
Richie Mo'unga against South Africa at Twickenham. Photo credit: Photosport

On the other are a Springboks side looking to emulate their greatest rivals with back-to-back World Cup wins and add a fourth trophy to their cabinet.

Neither side could have asked for a better scenario, but for South Africa, who scraped into Sunday's (NZ time) final with a one-point wins over France in the quarter-final and England in the semi, the chance to get one over the All Blacks won't be taken lightly.

"We're very, very excited," said South Africa assistant coach Deon Davids. "As kids, we grew up listening to the radio of the battles between the Springboks and All Blacks.  

"It's been part of our rugby history. Every time we play each other, it's always a special battle and I don't think this one will be different.  

"It will maybe go to a different level in terms of the competition between the players. There's talent in both teams.  

"It's going to come down to the day. It's the team that handles the pressure, executes and uses the opportunities the best, executes their plan the best or maybe has one brilliant moment from one individual that turns things around.

"It might come down to things like that, but we're very excited, and very privileged and humbled to make it so far to be part of such a big week leading into this game."

The two sides have already met twice in 2023, with vastly different results.

In July, Foster's men outplayed South Africa at Auckland's Go Media Stadium Mt Smart to take a 35-20 victory that all but sealed the Rugby Championship.

Fast forward to August and South Africa got their own back with a 35-7 win at London's Twickenham, inflicting the All Blacks' worst defeat in history.

Both those two defeats can be written off.

South Africa's loss at Mt Smart came in the absence of captain Siya Kolisi, while the All Blacks defeat was made more emphatic by a red card to Scott Barrett, with Brodie Retallick and Shannon Frizell also missing the clash through injury.

Since test rugby's inception, the two sides have met 105 times, with 62 wins for New Zealand, 39 for South Africa and four draws.

In World Cups, the two sides have played five times, with the scoreline reading 3-2 in the All Blacks' favour and the Springboks winless since 1999.  

For South Africa - and probably the All Blacks as well - what's come before does not matter.

Ardie Savea against South Africa at Mt Smart.
Ardie Savea against South Africa at Mt Smart. Photo credit: Photosport

"Our battles with the All Blacks go a long way back, there's a lot of history," added Davids.

"We've played them a couple of times this year, but obviously, going into a World Cup final, I don't think any of those previous encounters count.

"It's a totally new game, under new circumstances, playing for the World Cup.

"We have to be on top of our plans and on top of our execution this week."

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