World Rugby

Rugby World Cup Final Preview: Boks Look To Do The Double Vs. All Blacks

Rugby World Cup Final Preview: Boks Look To Do The Double Vs. All Blacks

Get the inside scoop on the 2023 Rugby World Cup final clash between New Zealand and South Africa, including expert analysis, key matchups and predictions.

Oct 28, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Rugby World Cup Final Preview: Boks Look To Do The Double Vs. All Blacks

In the world of rugby, anticipation has reached a fever pitch, as we stand on the precipice of one of the most anticipated events in the sport's history – the 2023 Rugby World Cup final. 

This thrilling showdown will feature the defending champions, the South Africa's Springboks, who narrowly edged England in a semifinal clash that left fans on the edges of their seats. 

On the other side of the pitch, stand the mighty New Zealand All Blacks, who put on a spectacular display to comprehensively defeat Argentina in their semifinal bout.

However, what truly sets this final apart is the historical context: for the first time in nearly three decades, New Zealand and South Africa are set to collide on rugby's grandest stage. 

The last time these two giants met in a Rugby World Cup final was in 1995, a match etched in the annals of rugby history. 

As the world watches with bated breath, the 2023 final promises to be a bone crunching encounter. 

Team News 

Dominating the headlines this week has been South Africa's return to the highly debated 7-1 bench split. 

Leaning into their clear advantage of possessing some of the game's best forwards, head coach Jacques Nienaber and South Africa Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus once again have rolled the dice by including seven forward replacements on the bench.

This leaves Willie Le Roux as the lone backline cover on the bench, as the Boks look to go back to the tactic that brought them a record victory over the All Blacks at Twickenham.

On that occasion, two weeks before the Rugby World Cup, the South Africans dragged New Zealand into a fist fight they simply could not win. Battering the All Blacks starting pack before a full raft of forward replacements came on to finish the job, the Springboks stumbled upon perhaps the most effective way to neutralize the All Blacks.

New Zealand, on the other hand, has made just two changes to the side that ran rampant against Argentina in the semifinal.

Brodie Retallick replaces his long-term second-row partner Sam Whitelock in the starting team, alongside Scott Barrett, while in the front row, Nepo Laulala replaces Fletcher Newell on the bench.

Words From The Camps

Speaking ahead of the match, All Blacks forwards coach Jason Ryan spoke about how his team will need to counter South Africa's famed bomb squad,,

“It would be good to take some gas out of that bomb, wouldn’t it?" Ryan said. "They have got their DNA as a forward pack. We’ve got trust in our plan this week, and we believe we will be able to be there right until the end.”

Echoing his coaches sentiments, All Blacks backrow Dalton Papali'i said, “I’ll tell you a quick story. I’ve got a little group happening in the team room at our hotel, and we’re watching Band of Brothers, and the 101st Airborne and their Easy Company,” he said.

“So, I made a little joke saying ‘you know they’ve got the ‘Bomb Squad,’ so we could have the ‘Easy Company.’ We want to go and finish the job and be in the trenches.

“Talking about the Bomb Squad, man they’ve proven themselves. They can come on and change a game like that. So, we sort of need to identify whoever is on the bench and that, need to really be screwed on up top and give it hell.”

On the other side, Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber was asked about his team's selection process for the final.

“The team is not 15, it is 23," he said. "We always say that. When you do squad selection, there are a lot of things that influence that - from medical to past performances - and a lot of analysis into New Zealand and where we think we can get the edge on them.

“Then, the discussions start between the coaches and it goes from a 5-3 to a 6-2 to a 7-1, then it goes back again. It is not a 10-minute discussion, it is hours and hours.

“I’m not going to say what the strengths and weaknesses of the All Blacks are, that would be stupid. But a lot of analysis went into it, and at the end, we went with a squad of 23.

“It could have been 6-2, 5-3, it doesn’t matter. You select a team you think can get a result. The 23 we selected for a reason, and the reason is we think they can deliver and win us a back-to-back World Cup.”

Key Match-Up

Two of international Rugby's best wingers will square off in the final, as Cheslin Kolbe and Will Jordan lock horns in the wide channels.

Jordan, who is on try away from breaking the Rugby World Cup single-tournament try scoring record, would overtake fellow All Blacks Jonah Lomu and Julian Savea, as well as former Springboks star Bryan Habana as the sole holder of the record, if he were to score.

Kolbe, not in the conversation for top try scorer this time around, knows all about scoring on the biggest stage, having crossed the whitewash in the 2019 final.

The two players are silky smooth operators who possess lethal sidesteps and an eye for a gap.

Physically, the two are in direct contrast, with Jordan standing at 6-foot-2 and Kolbe coming in a lick over 5-foot-7, yet despite the disparity in size,  the duo play a similar role for their respective teams. 

Given their unique ability to generally avoid taking a heavy shot, both players routinely have found their way through tight spaces from set plays, as they more often than not, they break through the first line of defense.

Thus, with so much on the line, a break from either of them this evening could prove to be the difference in what looks set to be an exceptionally close matchup.


In a real tip of the cap to the South African coaching staff, they will never be accused of dying wondering, as they routinely swing for the fences. 

In what would appear to be a tactic that could blow the All Blacks out of the water, rather than trying to match them, the Boks 'Bomb Squad' selection is a risk. 

As touched upon above, if the Boks suffer a couple of injuries to key backline players, they will run the risk of being exposed by the lethal All Blacks backline. On the flip-side of this is, of course, the possibility that the Boks simply flatten the Kiwi's forward pack, and with it, nullify any opportunity for their backline to get into the match. 

On face value, the All Blacks will enter the match as favorites for a multitude of reasons, none more so than their highly favorable draw. 

Outside of their opening-round loss to France and ultra tight quarterfinal victory over Ireland, the All Blacks have had a cushy run to the final. Simply obliterating minnows Namibia, Uruguay and Italy, the New Zealanders have been able to comfortably rotate their squad to avoid any serious injuries. 

The Springboks, on the other hand, have played brutally physical matches every round - bar one against Romania. Thus, if they were to beat Scotland, Tonga, Ireland, France, England and New Zealand to win the World Cup, it would be the greatest victory in World Cup history, bar none. 

One element that is working in the Boks' favor, however, is their ability to close out close encounters when the pressure comes on. Throw into the mix that Paris is set to have rain throughout the evening, and this too will work in the favor of their clear-as-day tactic to drag the All Blacks into a fist fight.

As ever with these two teams, the margins are set to razor thin, and in all likelihood, the result will be decided by a singular moment. With this in mind, the Boks have shown throughout the tournament that when they're pressed, they can find that moment. Springboks by three points.


New Zealand

15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (c), 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 Sam Whitelock, 20 Dalton Papali’i, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

South Africa

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 (c), 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