The World Cup final will go down in rugby annals. It will also be great study material for everyone to learn how a better and more creative team can easily lose a game they could have won.
JAR won the third elimination game in a row by just one point. We could go on and on about why she won again. Great strategy, discipline, solid defense, excellent, experienced and ice-calm kicker Handré Pollard. The unbeatable Pieter-Steph du Toit, the fast and dangerous Faf de Klerk and Cheslin Kolbe…
But it will be even more interesting to see why New Zealand lost.
Three moments were key. The All Blacks missed two all-important kicks and came up short by a combined five points. First, Richie Mo’unga didn’t convert for two points after a superbly laid five. Finally, Jordie Barrett missed a free kick for three points with seven minutes to go. Each of those kicks could have moved the team from the far end of the planet to victory.
New Zealand’s situation shows that in today’s perfectly balanced world of rugby, a team that does not have a steady, excellent goal kicker cannot win.
New Zealand didn’t have one. But that wasn’t all. At the same time, the All Blacks showed a lower degree of discipline in the game than was bearable. Two yellow cards, one of which turned red, was too much. To top it all off, the first one for Shannon Fritzell came in the second minute of the match. Captain Sam Cane also received a second yellow early on, and it was reassessed to a red.
The New Zealanders could not settle, calm down, stabilize the ranks and start playing their game from the beginning. They were nervous, always catching up and paying hard for it.
At the same time, they had fantastic moments, the opponents were blazing in attack. But when the referee did not correctly recognize their second five, it was as if they lost their “drive”.
And thirdly, at some key moments it looked like the All Blacks had less desire to win than the Springboks. On the contrary, they showed throughout the match that if they won two matches by just one point, they can easily win the third as well. And that happened too.