Rugby World Cup: Coach Ian Foster thanks fans for support as All Blacks begin preparations for South Africa finale

Coach Ian Foster has expressed his gratitude to Kiwi fans, with the All Blacks now preparing to face South Africa in the final of the Rugby World Cup.

After beating Argentina and England respectively, rugby's fiercest rivals will meet at Paris' Stade de France on Sunday (NZ time) - both looking to bring home a record fourth William Webb Ellis Cup.

While South Africa have entered the tournament among the favourites - and defending champions - New Zealand have had to exceed expectations just to reach the final, but their quarter-final victory over Ireland this month has laid the platform to go all the way.

Ian Foster celebrates.
Ian Foster celebrates. Photo credit: Getty Images

For four years, Foster has had to prove he's the right man to lead the All Blacks to this exact moment, but the support of those who've always backed him and those now firmly behind his team is felt all the way on the other side of the world.  

"It's phenomenal," Foster told Newshub. "What we're getting behind the scenes has been amazing.

"The tournament has captured New Zealand at home and we're feeling that. The messages and videos you get through your phones and everything, it's been phenomenal.

"We're greatly appreciative of that. The fact we know people are getting out of bed, having their Marmite on toast and doing their stuff is pretty cool, but there's so many black jerseys in the stadium, I think we might have converted a few French people here too.

"The support is critical for us at this stage of the tournament, because we're playing for this country. To be reminded of that is pretty special."

As far as narrative goes, an All Blacks v Springboks final is all the game's powerbrokers could have wished for.

Rugby's two fiercest rivals have each won three World Cups - one will become the first nation to win it four times, while South Africa would also equal the All Blacks in winning it back to back, after they lifted the trophy in 2019.

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.   

Now, the 106th test between the two will see them compete for the World Cup for the second time, after their dramatic 1995 showdown.  

"It probably couldn't be scripted better, could it?" added Foster. "From an All Black view, South Africa's always been the great foe.   

"We look at all our battles over the years, there's always been massive respect for each other in how we go about our work.

"You've got two teams that have got a chance to create some history, being the first team to win it four times. I guess that will be spoken about at some point, but there's a lot at stake.

"To play them in a final, it couldn't be better."

Regardless of what happens, this World Cup final will be Foster's last test as All Blacks head coach.

Ian Foster congratulates Ardie Savea.
Ian Foster congratulates Ardie Savea. Photo credit: Getty Images

By even reaching the final, he and his team have proved their doubters wrong, but no coach or player wants to reach this stage and not win.

The All Blacks class of 2023 are the exact same, as history beckons.  

"For this team, it's a big chance," he said. "Our goal is to do the best we can now.

"We've got a chance to be in a final, which doesn't happen too often. We want to treasure that and achieve our short-term goal.  

"The chance for this group to put another World Cup in the cabinet and add to the legacy of a team that we love deeply would be pretty special."

Join Newshub at 8am Sunday for live updates of the All Blacks v South Africa World Cup final