Kolisi becomes first black African to lift World Cup

By Jamie Wall
Photo / World Rugby (Getty Images)

The Springboks have defeated England 32-12 tonight in Yokohama, becoming world champions for the third time in their history. Flanker Siya Kolisi, the Springbok captain, became the first black African to hold the Webb Ellis Cup aloft, in front of a crowd of 73,000.

Earlier in the week, Kolisi reminisced that he had to go down to the local pub as a 16-year-old to watch the last time South Africa became champions, as his family did not own a television.

His side made surprisingly easy work of the English, who went into the game as heavy favourites after they beat the All Blacks 19-7 in their semi-final. From the opening whistle, the Boks dominated the English, who were not helped by an early injury to Kyle Sinckler. The prop was forced from the field after a heavy collision in a tackle left him knocked out.

Handré Pollard connected with a 23-minute penalty, which was the first of a good day with the boot for the South African first-five. 

Owen Farrell answered with penalties in the 23rd and 35th minutes, but Pollard struck three more to make the score 12-6 at halftime.

By now, there were serious problems for the English, most tellingly at scrum time. The Springboks dominated them at set-piece, allowing Pollard to keep the scoreboard ticking over and carving off territory with touch finders.

Also, England’s backs were barely involved at all, after being so effective last weekend against the All Blacks. Farrell and George Ford’s kicking game was well off, and all the Springboks had to do was just sit back and wait for the English to make another mistake so there would be another scrum.

After halftime, the game settled back down into what it was before, but the pressure was on the English to change the pace - something they were unable to do. The Boks were smashing them all over the park, and the English could not make a dent in their dominance at the ruck.

The killer blow came in the 66th minute, when England left an overlap on the blindside for winger Makazole Mapimpi to exploit. He chipped ahead for Lukhanyo Am to regather and pop a pass back to his winger, who scored the Springboks’ first-ever World Cup final try, 24 years in the making. 

With six minutes to go, Cheslin Kolbe sealed the deal, scooting down the wing and cutting inside some tired defence to score the Boks’ second.

The final whistle was greeted with jubilation from the Springboks, who can add this title to the ones from 1995 and 2007. For Kolisi, this is a special moment as he has been a symbol of the integration that the Springboks have undertaken in the last two decades. 

The 28-year-old grew up in the impoverished Zwide township outside Port Elizabeth and endured a tough upbringing, before gaining a rugby scholarship to the prestigious Grey High School. He represented South Africa at age-grade level before making his Springbok debut at age 21 in 2013.

Springboks 32 (M Mapimpi, C Kolbe tries; H Pollard 6 pen, 2 con)

England 12 (O Farrell 4 pen)

HT: 12-6 Springboks