Maro Itoje was named England's man of the match after their eviscerating 19-7 semi-final win over New Zealand. It was a crowded field for that particular honour but England's imperious lock touched perfection. Within three minutes of the 32-12 final defeat against South Africa, Itoje had inadvertently knocked a team-mate out cold. A missed catch from a restart 20 minutes later surrendered one of the England's brief periods of first-half parity.

Tom Curry was tenaciously terrific against the All Black, the 21-year-old underlining his status as one of this World Cup's breakout stars. Against the relentless Springboks, he was already finding the breakdown to be an entirely different proposition. When Itoje failed to claim, Curry knocked on. England then conceded a scrum penalty and Handre Pollard kicked the points, in what became a repeated narrative in Yokohama.

Ben Youngs was a frenetic metronome versus New Zealand, judiciously maintaining England's furious tempo. The team were unable to find any rhythm early on against South Africa – their attempts to avoid the Springbok arm wrestle amounting to haphazard windmilling. Given a chance to attack in the 11th minute, Youngs launched a howling pass over Anthony Watson's head and into touch.

George Ford's midfield combination with Owen Farrell has been the spark for all their best rugby under Eddie Jones. A footballer of immense skill and precision enjoying a fantastic tournament, Ford's most notable first-half contribution was a 27th-minute kick out on the full. He was replaced early in the second half.

Warren Gatland's mischievous words after his Wales team were edged out by South Africa in their semi seasoned this error-strewn stew.

"We have seen in previous World Cups that teams sometimes play their final in semi-finals and don't always turn up for a final," he said.

England undoubtedly left a peak they never troubled on Saturday, but not turning up suggests a team shrinking from the challenge and disappearing from view. All of England's toils, from errors with ball in hand to being obliterated at the set piece, came in plain sight. Only during a period of herculean Springbok defence after the half hour did they look something like the world's number one team.

Scrum half Faf de Klerk caught the eye as a yapping nuisance behind a formidable pack, although the introduction of South Africa's "Bomb Squad" replacement forwards did not turn the screw as expected, at least not initially.

The changing personnel after half-time coincided with the penalty count climbing. Referee Jerome Garces was a busy man as each passage played out on the borderline of fair and unfair. Owen Farrell and Handre Pollard stepped up to kick the points and we were moving in accelerated three-point bursts.

South Africa won their previous two World Cup finals without touching down. That arrangement would have suited the majestic Pollard and the Rainbow Nation roaring him on down to the ground.

Makazole Mapimpi had other ideas, popping a devilish kick over the England defence that Lukhanyo Am gathered smoothly. Two men hailing from South Africa's townships ensured another, Siya Kolisi would lift the Webb Ellis Cup – a triumph of symbolism and significance to arguably outstrip Nelson Mandela, Francois Pienaar, 1995 and all that. 

England were now a bedraggled, disconsolate rabble, barely recognisable from the team that brought the All Blacks to their knees as they wearily stooped to their own haunches. Cheslin Kolbe rubbed their noses in it with a delirious romp down the right wing. The Rugby Championship winners were world champions again, having made a total mockery of their pre-match underdog status.

As the trophy engraver got to work before full-time, it was a wonder South Africa did not score more points. Wearing the same number six as Pienaar and Mandela did 24 years ago, the inspirational Kolisi stood on the sidelines with no need to conceal his infectious smile. There could be no doubt when his supreme Springboks had played their final.

Siya Kolisi believes South Africa's Rugby World Cup final victory over England shows the country can "achieve anything if we work together as one".

The Springboks overpowered England in Yokohama to secure a 32-12 triumph, second-half tries from Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe sealing an emphatic win after six Handre Pollard penalties.

As a result, 24 years after Francois Pienaar accepted the Webb Ellis Cup from Nelson Mandela in one of sport's most iconic moments, there was another inspirational scene as Kolisi - South Africa's first black captain - lifted the same trophy.

In a stirring post-match interview, Kolisi said he hoped South Africa's success could inspire people throughout the nation.

"The people of South Africa have got behind us and we are so grateful to the people of South Africa," said Kolisi, who grew up in poverty and watched the Boks' 2007 World Cup win in a township tavern.

"We have so many problems in our country, but to have a team like this, we come from different backgrounds, different races and we came together with one goal and we wanted to achieve it. I really hope we've done that for South Africa, to show that we can pull together if we want to and achieve something.

"Since I've been alive, I've never seen South Africa like this. Obviously in '95, what the World Cup did for us [was special], and now with all the challenges we are having, the coach [Rassie Erasmus] just came and told us [after] the last game, 'we're not playing for ourselves any more, we're playing for our people back home'.

"That's what we wanted to do today and we really appreciate all the support, people in the taverns, people in the farms, homeless people, there were screens there, and people in rural areas, thank you so much.

"We appreciate all the support, we love you South Africa and we can achieve anything if we work together as one."

Maro Itoje was named England's man of the match after their eviscerating 19-7 semi-final win over New Zealand. It was a crowded field for that particular honour but England's imperious lock touched perfection. Within three minutes of the 32-12 final defeat against South Africa, Itoje had inadvertently knocked a team-mate out cold. A missed catch from a restart 20 minutes later surrendered one of the England's brief periods of first-half parity.

Tom Curry was tenaciously terrific against the All Black, the 21-year-old underlining his status as one of this World Cup's breakout stars. Against the relentless Springboks, he was already finding the breakdown to be an entirely different proposition. When Itoje failed to claim, Curry knocked on. England then conceded a scrum penalty and Handre Pollard kicked the points, in what became a repeated narrative in Yokohama.

Ben Youngs was a frenetic metronome versus New Zealand, judiciously maintaining England's furious tempo. The team were unable to find any rhythm early on against South Africa – their attempts to avoid the Springbok arm wrestle amounting to haphazard windmilling. Given a chance to attack in the 11th minute, Youngs launched a howling pass over Anthony Watson's head and into touch.

George Ford's midfield combination with Owen Farrell has been the spark for all their best rugby under Eddie Jones. A footballer of immense skill and precision enjoying a fantastic tournament, Ford's most notable first-half contribution was a 27th-minute kick out on the full. He was replaced early in the second half.

Warren Gatland's mischievous words after his Wales team were edged out by South Africa in their semi seasoned this error-strewn stew.

"We have seen in previous World Cups that teams sometimes play their final in semi-finals and don't always turn up for a final," he said.

England undoubtedly left a peak they never troubled on Saturday, but not turning up suggests a team shrinking from the challenge and disappearing from view. All of England's toils, from errors with ball in hand to being obliterated at the set piece, came in plain sight. Only during a period of herculean Springbok defence after the half hour did they look something like the world's number one team.

Scrum half Faf de Klerk caught the eye as a yapping nuisance behind a formidable pack, although the introduction of South Africa's "Bomb Squad" replacement forwards did not turn the screw as expected, at least not initially.

The changing personnel after half-time coincided with the penalty count climbing. Referee Jerome Garces was a busy man as each passage played out on the borderline of fair and unfair. Owen Farrell and Handre Pollard stepped up to kick the points and we were moving in accelerated three-point bursts.

South Africa won their previous two World Cup finals without touching down. That arrangement would have suited the majestic Pollard and the Rainbow Nation roaring him on down to the ground.

Makazole Mapimpi had other ideas, popping a devilish kick over the England defence that Lukhanyo Am gathered smoothly. Two men hailing from South Africa's townships ensured another, Siya Kolisi would lift the Webb Ellis Cup – a triumph of symbolism and significance to arguably outstrip Nelson Mandela, Francois Pienaar, 1995 and all that. 

England were now a bedraggled, disconsolate rabble, barely recognisable from the team that brought the All Blacks to their knees as they wearily stooped to their own haunches. Cheslin Kolbe rubbed their noses in it with a delirious romp down the right wing. The Rugby Championship winners were world champions again, having made a total mockery of their pre-match underdog status.

As the trophy engraver got to work before full-time, it was a wonder South Africa did not score more points. Wearing the same number six as Pienaar and Mandela did 24 years ago, the inspirational Kolisi stood on the sidelines with no need to conceal his infectious smile. There could be no doubt when his supreme Springboks had played their final.

England went into the Rugby World Cup final as strong favourites to defeat South Africa, only to go down to a 32-12 defeat in Yokohama.

Eddie Jones' side were stunning winners against New Zealand in the semi-finals, destroying the title ambitions of the mighty defending champions.

That 19-7 triumph set England up for a shot at the Springboks in Saturday's final and they were quickly tagged as firm favourites.

But the South Africa side that edged past Wales to reach the showpiece match defied expectations, with Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe scoring the only tries of the game, as Handre Pollard added 22 points off the tee.

England's shock defeat is one of many notable examples where a highly fancied team has fallen at the last hurdle.

Indeed, history is littered with examples of teams bringing out their best for semi-final matches, only to fall short on the big day.

Here is a look at some of the occasions when sides have not saved their best until last.
 

1987: Rugby World Cup - France stun hosts, surrender to All Blacks

In the days before World Cup semi-finals were automatically played in super stadia, Sydney's modest Concord Oval staged Australia's semi-final against France. A thriller was locked at 24-24 going into the dying moments, with Michael Lynagh having missed kicks to put the game to bed, when a jaw-dropping French attack resulted in Serge Blanco diving in at the left corner for the winning try. France were ecstatic, through to the first World Cup final, but New Zealand were behemoths lying in wait and the Eden Park final was a one-sided affair, the All Blacks powering to a 29-9 victory.

1999: Rugby World Cup - Quelle horreur! France falter at the last again

Jean-Claude Skrela's apparently formidable French swept through the group stage unscathed before dropping 47 points on Argentina and - mon dieu! - demolishing the All Blacks 43-31 in the semi-finals. France scorched back from 24-10 behind to sink the Kiwis in a Twickenham classic, inspired by the brilliant kicking of Christophe Lamaison and the gallivanting Christophe Dominici. Having edged out South Africa a day earlier, the Wallabies had considerably more left in the tank than Les Bleus when it came to the final, Rod Macqueen's men roaring to glory as 35-12 winners on the back of 25 points from the boot of Matt Burke and tries from Ben Tune and Owen Finegan.

2003: Premiership - Twickenham agony for dominant Gloucester

Gloucester looked bankers to be crowned kings of English rugby for the first time, after a stunning 2002-03 regular season saw them finish 15 points clear of distant nearest rivals Wasps at the pinnacle of the Premiership. Nigel Melville's side were far and away the best team over the campaign but then collapsed when it mattered most. The Cherry and Whites went straight into the final, which was the privilege at the time for the table-toppers, with Wasps and third-placed Northampton scuffling it out in a single semi-final for the right to join them. Wasps edged that game and then the side captained by Lawrence Dallaglio defied all logic by thumping Gloucester 39-3 at Twickenham to take the trophy.

2007: Premiership - Cherry and Whites off colour as Tigers pounce

Dean Ryan this time led Gloucester to the top of the Premiership table, albeit only marginally ahead of Leicester, but again there was crushing disappointment around the corner. A seven-try, 50-9 destruction of Saracens in their Kingsholm semi-final pointed to Gloucester being in great shape to gun at glory. At the very least they should have been highly competitive against Leicester in the championship match, so the 44-16 outcome in favour of the Tigers was a baffling outcome. Ryan admitted there was "mismatch.... across the field", while the Guardian memorably described the final as being "like watching field mice fleeing a combine harvester".

2015 Super Rugby: Hurricanes' hopes blown away

Everything was set up for the Hurricanes. They played a supreme regular season, finishing streets ahead of the Super Rugby pack with 14 wins from 16 matches, and after bulldozing the Brumbies 29-9 in the semi-finals they had home advantage at Westpac Stadium in Wellington for the title match. Chris Boyd's team looked nailed on, yet sport is rarely that straightforward. The Highlanders, who had never before won the competition, produced a powerful performance in the final and emerged 21-14 victors, silencing the home support who had showed up for a coronation. As Boyd said: "We were just a little off." And that can be enough in finals, where the switched-on invariably get their reward.

South Africa made history on Saturday after beating England 32-12 in the Rugby World Cup final.

The Springboks had already lifted one trophy this year after winning the Rugby Championship in August, and, in Yokohama, Rassie Erasmus' team achieved something that had eluded rivals New Zealand and Australia in the past.

In the previous five years when there has been both a Rugby Championship – or its previous incarnation the Tri Nations – and a World Cup, the winners of the first tournament had subsequently failed to also deliver success on the global stage.

South Africa succeeded where these teams failed...
 

1999: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – AUSTRALIA

The All Blacks won the first two Tri Nations and made it three in four years by thrashing South Africa 28-0, beating Australia 34-15 and claiming another victory over the Springboks.

However, a 28-7 loss to the Wallabies in the final fixture suggested New Zealand were not so invincible...

At the World Cup, the great Jonah Lomu scored eight tries yet France stunned New Zealand 43-31 in the last four, with Australia then winning the final against Les Bleus.

2003: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – ENGLAND

Four wins out of four delivered another Tri Nations triumph for New Zealand.

The All Blacks scored 282 points in their four World Cup pool games in Australia too before easing past South Africa 29-9 in the quarter-finals.

But Elton Flatley's accuracy from the tee consigned New Zealand to another semi-final loss and sent Australia back to the final, where Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal in Sydney delivered a famous success for England.

2007: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – SOUTH AFRICA

Neither Australia nor South Africa could deny the All Blacks another Tri Nations title in 2007, though it was a Northern Hemisphere nation who would stop their run at the World Cup.

New Zealand led 13-3 in the first half of their quarter-final against France only to suffer another knockout loss to their World Cup nemesis as Yannick Jauzion scored a brilliant converted try 11 minutes from time to seal a 20-18 success.

Defending champions England beat France in the semi-final but Percy Montgomery won the battle of the boots with Wilkinson in the final as South Africa secured their second World Cup.

2011: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – AUSTRALIA, WORLD CUP WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND

In the final Tri Nations before Argentina joined to form the Rugby Championship, Graham Henry's team lost their last two matches as Australia triumphed for the first time in a decade.

The World Cup was hosted in New Zealand and after years of being the nearly men, it was the All Blacks' turn to taste global glory again.

France were their final opponents and, in a tense, low-scoring contest, New Zealand won 8-7.

2015: RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS – AUSTRALIA, WORLD CUP WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND

Four years ago, Australia beat the other three nations to win the Rugby Championship, and came out on top of a World Cup pool that included Wales and hosts England.

The Wallabies narrowly saw off Scotland 35-34 and ousted Argentina 29-15 to set up a final with a New Zealand side that had hammered France 62-13 in the last eight.

No team had ever retained the World Cup before but Dan Carter shone on his international farewell to ensure Steve Hansen's side lifted the Webb Ellis Cup again.

Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe kicked England when they were down and Handre Pollard scored 22 points as magnificent South Africa won the Rugby World Cup final with a 32-12 victory.

The Springboks overpowered the favourites at International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday to match the mark of three World Cup wins by New Zealand.

South Africa dominated the set-piece in a brutal and relentless performance, with England unable to get going after suffering an early blow when Kyle Sinckler departed with concussion.

Pollard produced a masterclass from the tee, while Mapimpi and Kolbe crossed in the second half as South Africa became the first team to be crowned Southern Hemisphere and world champions in the same year.

Four Owen Farrell penalties were all England could muster as South Africa defended magnificently, enabling Siya Kolisi to become the first black captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

Joe Denly has been ruled out for the remainder of England's T20 international series against New Zealand with a right ankle injury.

The Kent batsman did not feature in England's seven-wicket opening game win on Friday, having picked up the injury in practice on Thursday, with scans since showing the 33-year-old has sustained ligament damage.

A replacement will not be called up for the remaining four matches of the series with Denly to be monitored in view of a return to the Test Series against the Black Caps, which begins on November 21.

The second T20 international with New Zealand will be playing in Wellington on Sunday.

Iain Balshaw says England are yet to peak as they prepare to do battle with South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday.

Eddie Jones' side dethroned New Zealand with a magnificent performance at International Stadium Yokohama last weekend, setting up a showdown with the Springboks seven days later.

The Red Rose are favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the second time after dominating the two-time defending champions.

Balshaw, part of the squad for England's only World Cup triumph in Australia 16 years ago, believes there is more to come from the current crop ahead of the biggest game of their lives.

He told Omnisport: "I'm not sure exactly what the average age of the England squad is, but I'd guess around 27, and the majority are coming into their prime.

"We've seen young players like Sam Underhill and Tom Curry come in and be outstanding and they have years ahead of them, they will only get better.

"I think these are such exciting times for English rugby, not only looking at the players who are out in Japan, but also those who did not make the squad and the strength in depth there is.

"There is great talent in the Premiership and academies, the game really is in great shape in England."

Balshaw said England must match the Springboks' physicality and be prepared to mix up their game if they are to emulate the class of 2003.

The jet-heeled former back added: "You've got to meet fire with fire. You have to be prepared for that big first collision and make sure you execute the plans that have been put in place.

"England have done that really well so far, they have been so well drilled and been expansive, but if they need to win playing boring rugby, then so be it. When you get into a final, winning is all that matters."

Phil Vickery says England must come out all guns blazing to prevent South Africa's 'Bomb Squad' from detonating their dreams of lifting the Rugby World Cup.

England are favourites to be crowned champions for a second time in Yokohama on Saturday after dethroning New Zealand with one of the great World Cup performances last weekend.

Eddie Jones' side can expect a massive battle against the ferocious Rugby Championship holders, who have the strength in depth to be able to bring fearsome forwards - christened the 'Bomb Squad' - off the bench.

Vickery, a World Cup winner 16 years ago before captaining his country in a defeat to South Africa in the 2007 final, warned England must use their full artillery and execute plans to perfection to ensure it is mission accomplished.

The former skipper told Omnisport: "South Africa are not going to do anything that England won't be expecting from them. They are going to be ultra-physical and confrontational, it's going to be a massive battle. 

"England are capable of winning that battle, no doubt about it, but if you'd have given me £100 before the tournament to back a winner, I would have put it on South Africa. It can't really come as a surprise they are in the final, they are the champions of the Southern Hemisphere. 

"Yes, they may not be playing spectacular rugby, but they are playing winning rugby and that is all that matters in a World Cup.

"England have the firepower, we have seen that in their incredible win over the All Blacks, but so do South Africa.

"We have to take them on physically, there is no avoiding that, but it is important we move them around and try to break the game up. Opportunities will come if they can do that and keep their discipline. 

"If England can go out and play with the same intensity they did against the All Blacks, that will be hard for any team to live with."

Vickery believes England's big-game experience should ensure they can handle the pressure and the former prop urged them to grasp an opportunity that can change their lives forever.

"There are guys who have played in Grand Slam deciders, a Lions Test series, European finals, et cetera. They know all about how to handle the big occasion." he added.

"The lovely thing they have ahead of them is a life-changing opportunity. Their names can be forever etched in history if they can win on Saturday. 

"They will have millions of people who are with them for every collision, every lineout, every scrum - looking back, it's amazing to think you are involved in something like that and I'm excited for them."

Rugby World Cup finalists South Africa and England are represented in nominations for World Rugby's Player of the Year award.

With the shortlists for the Coach of the Year and Team of the Year awards having been announced on Thursday, World Rugby revealed the six nominees for the individual men's award on Friday.

South Africa's Pieter-Steph du Toit and Cheslin Kolbe – who has overcome an injury to feature in Rassie Erasmus' line-up for Saturday's final – are the two Springboks up for the accolade.

Tom Curry is England's sole representative, with the 21-year-old having started in 13 of 14 Tests for Eddie Jones' side this year.

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones – his country's most-capped player – is also included, as is New Zealand star Ardie Savea.

The final spot is taken by Joe Taufete'e of the United States, who became the most prolific try scorer in front-row history when he went over for a hat-trick against Uruguay.

Ireland's Johnny Sexton won the 2018 award, having ended Beauden Barrett's two-year spell as the world's best player.

Like the Coach and Team of the Year awards, the winner of the Player of the Year accolade will be confirmed on Sunday in Tokyo.

James Vince hopes his half-century in England's seven-wicket win over New Zealand on Friday boosted his case for inclusion at next year's Twenty20 World Cup.

England won the first T20 game of their five-match series with the Black Caps in Christchurch in what was a repeat of July's Cricket World Cup final, though there was an absence of drama this time as the tourists chased down 154 with nine balls to spare.

After New Zealand had made 153-5, Vince, who was part of that triumphant England ODI squad but only featured in three games when Jason Roy was injured, top-scored for England with a 38-ball 59 as he shared a 54-run partnership with captain Eoin Morgan (34 not out).

With Roy, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes among those rested for this series, Vince is keen to grasp his chance as England build towards the T20 World Cup in Australia.

"I'm happy with the contribution and it's great to get off to a winning start as a team," he told BBC TMS.

"I managed to time it well and build a partnership with Bluey [Jonny Bairstow], then got another going with Morgs [Morgan].

"You always feel confident of chasing a total like that. It was a good pitch. It was a solid performance all round. There were not many outstanding performances but a solid display.

"There are some world-class players here, but it gives me and some other guys a great chance to stake a claim with the World Cup next year.

"I don't think there are many spots up for grabs, so it's going to be a tough one to break into. Hopefully it will be nice to get a run of games."

The hosts, missing the injured Kane Williamson, struggled for fluency with the bat and Daryl Mitchell admitted their below-par total meant they were always up against it.

"We were probably 10 or 15 short to put some pressure on with the ball –160 would have been very tough," Mitchell, who made an unbeaten 30, added.

"The pitch was a bit two-paced. England adapted better than us."

The Rugby World Cup final is upon us. England and South Africa will face off in Yokohama on Saturday, with the winner lifting the Webb Ellis Cup.

Both sides have enjoyed fantastic runs to this stage, with England winning every match they have played at the finals and dominating two-time defending champions New Zealand in the last four.

The Springboks were beaten by the All Blacks in their opening match but have recovered in impressive fashion, closing on a third title.

With the help of Opta data, we look at the key numbers ahead of what promises to be an enthralling final between two worthy winners.
 

2 - England have won back-to-back Tests against South Africa, but their record against the Springboks had previously been nothing to shout about. They managed just one victory in their prior 15 meetings.

33 - Eddie Jones' team will need to be at it from the off on Saturday. South Africa having gone on to win 33 of their 35 World Cup matches in which they have led at the break.

89 - Owen Farrell needs just 11 points to become the second player to reach 100 World Cup points for England after Jonny Wilkinson, who accumulated 277.

0 - South Africa won the previous two World Cup finals they appeared in, but both victories came without either side scoring a try.

1 - If England beat Rassie Erasmus' side, they will become the first team to beat Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in a single World Cup campaign.

407 - Springbok Damian de Allende is one of only three players to have played more minutes at this tournament than England duo Elliot Daly and Tom Curry, who have each clocked up 400.

3 - The sides have previously met four times in the World Cup, with South Africa coming out on top in three of those matches. Their most recent World Cup meeting came in the 2007 final, which the Springboks won 15-6.

140 - Handre Pollard has scored more points at a World Cup than any other South Africa player, although he is yet to score a try in the competition.

50 - Siya Kolisi is set to earn his 50th Test cap and his 20th as Springboks captain.

98 - South Africa have the best lineout success rate of any side at this World Cup, having only lost one, which came in their semi-final win over Wales.

4 - This will be England's fourth appearance in the final, a joint record alongside Australia and the All Blacks.

27 - Jonny May needs one more try to equal Jason Robinson on 28 for England, the joint-fifth most for England. He has four in six appearances against the Springboks.

Thursday lunchtime was quiet at the Ekupholeni Cocktail Lounge. The clearing up after Wednesday's Ladies' Night was out of the way. Another busy weekend lay ahead.

The Sunday Soul Session - tickets 70 Rand in advance, R80 on the door, R100 with VIP privileges - was looking like selling out. And on Saturday, just like every Saturday, the venue that first flung open its doors three years ago was guaranteed to be heaving.

"Saturdays are always busy," says Tumla Hani, who works at the bar.

The Ekupholeni sits on Skefile Street in Zwide, a largely down-at-heel black township that sits just north of Port Elizabeth.

This is the district where Siya Kolisi grew up in poverty.

Kolisi is now the captain of South Africa's mighty Springboks.

Their first black captain.

Twenty or so years ago he was an impoverished boy, living with his grandmother, and his favourite toy was a brick. Kolisi's vivid imagination meant he got by.

On Saturday he will lead out the Boks in the Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama, Japan, and win his 50th cap. It will be standing room only in the morning at the Ekupholeni.

 

A favourite son of Zwide

A five-minute brisk walk from the Ekupholeni, past rows of rudimentary single-storey homes, sits Emsengeni Primary School, where Kolisi began his formal education. The Dan Qeqe Stadium, where Kolisi launched his rugby life with the African Bombers under-nines, is a similar trot away in the opposite direction. Qeqe, who died in 2005, campaigned passionately during the apartheid era for non-racial sport.

The Lifa & Mafa Butchery, said to be a favourite 'braai' hangout of Kolisi, is in the same neighbourhood. The Zwide Stadium, where a hastily-hired big screen will show Kolisi as the Boks take on England, is not far away.

Kolisi sought out a local tavern to watch the Boks beat England in the 2007 final, he revealed this week, because there was no television at home.

The Ekupholeni might be welcoming in future Bok leaders on Saturday, but in all probability the crowd will be a recognisable older set, eschewing the outdoor screening to share familiar company.

"We're showing the game on our TVs," says Tumla Hani. "The people come to watch the game. There will be lots here. It will be full here. We're always full here on Saturdays anyway, and it will be special."

She expects the atmosphere to be joyous, as it was when South Africa took down Wales in the semi-finals.

Drinks flowed, and even after emotions had been scrambled by the late drama of that match, there was dancing and delirium.

"The singing as well - did you see that?" Tumla asks.

I did, thanks to a Facebook video, which is why I'm calling. The singing was born of pure joy. An impromptu, refreshed South African choir belting out grand hosannas routinely beats the typical English pub trudge through Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

 

Arriving at a time of change

Kolisi was born on June 16 1991, a day before the apartheid era was officially repealed, and 16 months after Nelson Mandela was freed from Victor Verster Prison in Cape Town after 27 years of incarceration.

Books have been written, and films might follow, about Kolisi's rags-to-riches story.

He tells a story of turning up to Eastern Province junior rugby trials in "silk boxers, because I didn't have shorts". The boy in the strange garb caught the eye, inevitably, and he was soon offered a scholarship to the prestigious Grey High School in Port Elizabeth, which includes the great cricketer Graeme Pollock and former England rugby star Mike Catt among its alumni.

Kolisi, who together with over 90% of Zwide's population has Xhosa as a first language, needed to learn English. On the pitch, his rugby would do the talking, but to fit in at Grey - which he now describes as "the English school" - Kolisi had to buckle down and study.

He has gone from having no command to being one of the most eloquent and erudite English speakers in sport.

Kolisi's mother, who gave birth to him at the age of 16, died when he was still a Grey student.

But by then the boy was growing into a warrior of a man, and despite his grief, Kolisi's rugby potential was being fulfilled. He went to Western Province, played for the Baby Boks and eventually graduated to the Stormers.

 

Born to lead his country

A day before turning 22, Kolisi made his Springboks debut against Scotland. At the age of 25 he was made captain of the Stormers, and a year later the same status was bestowed upon him with the national team.

He is married now, to Rachel, with two children, lives as a devout Christian, and enjoys a lifestyle that bears scant comparison to his childhood years.

Bryan Habana, the now-retired wing superstar, has said a Kolisi-led Springboks winning the World Cup might surpass South Africa's 1995 triumph, when President Mandela presented Francois Pienaar with the Webb Ellis Cup.

Success frequently breeds success, and Kolisi dreams of the day when youngsters from Zwide do not need to leave, as he did, to achieve their potential.

"It'd be so awesome... It's something I think will happen one day," Kolisi said.

His father, Fezakele, is making his first overseas trip to take in the final at first hand.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

My dads are on their way  Utata's first overseas trip - what a time to be alive 

A post shared by Rachel Kolisi (@rachel_kolisi) on 

In Zwide, whether enjoying the warm atmosphere of the Ekupholeni or the outdoor big-screen community party, it matters to the townspeople that the Springboks get the job done on Saturday.

But what matters most for now is that Kolisi, the talisman of the team in green and gold, is proudly one of their own.

England and South Africa are tantalisingly close to glory as they prepare to face off in the Rugby World Cup final.

Ahead of Saturday's much-anticipated showdown in Yokohama, we asked Lewis Moody - a World Cup winner with England in 2003 and a losing finalist against the Springboks four years later - to talk us through what it will take to emerge victorious in rugby's biggest game.

Here is the former flanker's guide to securing World Cup success.

 

'HOW DO YOU KEEP THOSE EMOTIONS IN CHECK?' - GETTING THE MINDSET RIGHT

Players from both sides will try to prepare for the contest as if it is any other game, although Moody acknowledges this is "easier said than done".

"Everyone, including the players, knows what's at stake," said Moody, speaking on behalf of Land Rover, Official Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019.

"The hardest thing is keeping your energy in check so you don't burn yourself out, whether that's through anxiety, nerves or excitement. You can sort of play the game in your head and then your body has emotionally played it already. So you've got to keep that composure and unleash it at the start of the game. 

"You have to figure out what works for you, how do you keep those emotions in check? For me, it was going to the cinema the night before a game, completely switching my brain off from anything rugby-related and just having a laugh.

"All the work has been done, you know all the moves, you're fit. It's just about figuring out what mindset you need to be in to deliver on that day and for me it was about being as relaxed as possible. Each player prepares in a different way - and just allowing them to do what's normal for them is key."

 

'FIGHTING A BATTLE IN YOUR OWN BRAIN' - THE AGONY OF THE FINAL HOURS BEFORE KICK-OFF

If the days leading up to the game are tense, the final hours in the lead-up to kick-off present the toughest mental challenge of all.

"Without doubt the worst part for me was the evening before and then the morning of [the game], because that's when the anxiety [is at its highest]," explained Moody.

"You're in your room, all you're thinking about is preparing for the game. Have you got your kit bag ready? Have you got your tracksuit and everything you're going to be wearing? Is it the right stuff? Have you got a spare pair of boots in case one breaks, a spare gumshield? It's just going through this list of things and then going to sleep and hoping you actually get some.

"You just want that time to disappear; you want to be on the pitch. Your comfort zone is when you've crossed that white line and you're right into the thick of it doing what you know. Up until then you can't control anything and your body is just playing tricks.

"Your mind is trying to maintain all those positive moments, the impacts you want to have, but the other half of your mind is allowing the gremlins to creep in. You don't want to be the person who makes the mistake [that costs your team the game]. So you're fighting a battle in your own brain until you cross that white line. That's when it all relaxes and your body just goes into doing what it does, that muscle memory takes over and life becomes simple."
 

'ULTIMATELY IT WILL COME DOWN TO DISCIPLINE'

Amid heightened emotions, maintaining discipline looks sure to be vital, while Moody also feels much will depend on whether South Africa can deny England quick ball at the breakdown.

"Ultimately it will come down to discipline, because it's going to be a tightly fought game," he argued.

"The key for me will be the speed of ball that the forwards can get for the backs and that will come down to the breakdown. New Zealand, for whatever reason, swapped Sam Cane out [in the semi-final] and it meant England had free rein at the breakdown, really. We also had 19 turnovers against the All Blacks, which is an unprecedented number. 

"I think having Tom Curry and Sam Underhill there, who clearly haven't been phased by any of the players they've played against or any of the occasions - if they can boss that breakdown and keep England's momentum going, then that will be decisive.

"They're going to be coming up against some serious units in the South African backline, in [Siya] Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and [Duane] Vermeulen, who will be doing their utmost to impose themselves on that English triumvirate. It will be a fascinating contest and there's no way in my mind South Africa will allow England the same speed of ball and momentum that they gained on Saturday [in their semi-final win over the All Blacks]."

 

'ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS TURN UP AND DELIVER IN THOSE 80 MINUTES'

England could hardly have performed better in their last-four victory over defending champions New Zealand, as they mixed a stunning defensive display with a slick and composed attacking performance to secure a 19-7 win.

Yet Moody, a veteran of 74 Tests between 2001 and 2011 including three for the British and Irish Lions, does not feel Eddie Jones' side will necessarily need to deliver the same all-round showing on Saturday. 

"It's not about delivering the same performance. It's about delivering the performance that is necessary to beat this opposition," he said.

"Last weekend it was that type of rugby, this week it might be drop goals, penalties, a hard-fought forward battle. It's about doing what it takes to win the match that's in front of you.

"The reality of a final is its one game, all you have to do is turn up and deliver in those 80 minutes. And that's where it can all change.

"We saw it in 2011. New Zealand were far and away the best side in the world that year and yet they only beat France by one point. All of a sudden the pressure and the anxiety came on. Even in '03 we should have beaten Australia by 15-20 points really with the opportunities we had - it just shows how pressure can get to you some times."

 

--- Land Rover is an Official Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019.  With over 20 years of heritage supporting rugby at all levels, Land Rover is celebrating what makes rugby, rugby. #LandRoverRugby ---

South Africa stand on the brink of making history when they face England in Saturday's Rugby World Cup final.

The Springboks have already lifted one trophy this year after winning the Rugby Championship in August, and Rassie Erasmus' team are looking to do something that has eluded rivals New Zealand and Australia in the past.

In the previous five years when there has been both a Rugby Championship – or its previous incarnation the Tri Nations – and a World Cup, the winners of the first tournament have subsequently failed to also deliver success on the global stage.

With South Africa in a position to finally end that sequence, we take a look at those who have previously conquered the Southern Hemisphere only to fall short at the World Cup.

 

1999: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – AUSTRALIA

The All Blacks won the first two Tri Nations and made it three in four years by thrashing South Africa 28-0, beating Australia 34-15 and claiming another victory over the Springboks.

However, a 28-7 loss to the Wallabies in the final fixture suggested New Zealand were not so invincible...

At the World Cup, the great Jonah Lomu scored eight tries yet France stunned New Zealand 43-31 in the last four, with Australia then winning the final against Les Bleus.

2003: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – ENGLAND

Four wins out of four delivered another Tri Nations triumph for New Zealand.

The All Blacks scored 282 points in their four World Cup pool games in Australia too before easing past South Africa 29-9 in the quarter-finals.

But Elton Flatley's accuracy from the tee consigned New Zealand to another semi-final loss and sent Australia back to the final, where Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal in Sydney delivered a famous success for England.

2007: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – SOUTH AFRICA

Neither Australia nor South Africa could deny the All Blacks another Tri Nations title in 2007, though it was a Northern Hemisphere nation who would stop their run at the World Cup.

New Zealand led 13-3 in the first half of their quarter-final against France only to suffer another knockout loss to their World Cup nemesis as Yannick Jauzion scored a brilliant converted try 11 minutes from time to seal a 20-18 success.

Defending champions England beat France in the semi-final but Percy Montgomery won the battle of the boots with Wilkinson in the final as South Africa secured their second World Cup.

2011: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – AUSTRALIA, WORLD CUP WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND

In the final Tri Nations before Argentina joined to form the Rugby Championship, Graham Henry's team lost their last two matches as Australia triumphed for the first time in a decade.

The World Cup was hosted in New Zealand and after years of being the nearly men, it was the All Blacks' turn to taste global glory again.

France were their final opponents and, in a tense, low-scoring contest, New Zealand won 8-7.

2015: RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS – AUSTRALIA, WORLD CUP WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND

Four years ago, Australia beat the other three nations to win the Rugby Championship, and came out on top of a World Cup pool that included Wales and hosts England.

The Wallabies narrowly saw off Scotland 35-34 and ousted Argentina 29-15 to set up a final with a New Zealand side that had hammered France 62-13 in the last eight.

No team had ever retained the World Cup before but Dan Carter shone on his international farewell to ensure Steve Hansen's side lifted the Webb Ellis Cup again.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.