Can Springboks buck the trend and complete first Rugby Championship-World Cup double?

By Sports Desk August 11, 2019

South Africa may have just won the Rugby Championship, but history is against them when it comes to completing a double at this year's World Cup.

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 champions of the first tournament have failed to also deliver success on the global stage.

The Springboks have the chance to make history in Japan, then. They lifted the first of two possible trophies in style on Saturday, thrashing Argentina 46-13 on the road to dethrone New Zealand as champions. 

We take a look at those who have conquered the Southern Hemisphere in the past, 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.

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    New Zealand were far from perfect in their Rugby World Cup opener, but a six-minute spell of breathtaking brilliance showed why the two-time defending champions remain the team to beat.

    While the All Blacks are understandably many people's favourites to prevail in Japan, it is fair to say their status as rugby's dominant nation has come under more questioning than usual in recent months.

    South Africa won this year's Rugby Championship, in which Steve Hansen's men suffered a stunning 47-26 defeat to Australia - albeit one they avenged the following week with a 36-0 thumping of the Wallabies to retain the Bledisloe Cup.

    The All Blacks have also been displaced by Ireland at the top of World Rugby's rankings and the likes of Wales and England have been tipped to mount strong challenges for glory over the coming weeks.

    For 20 minutes on Saturday, any doubts over New Zealand's strength were heightened as South Africa started superbly in a blockbuster Pool B opener in Yokohama that could well serve as a dress rehearsal for the final at the same venue on November 2.

    Throughout the first quarter, the Springboks dominated territorially, their ferocious line-speed causing no end of problems.

    However, one misplaced pass from Faf de Klerk - with South Africa leading 3-0 - triggered a sudden shift in momentum as the All Blacks demonstrated a ruthless streak no other team can match.

    The Boks initially got off lightly when De Klerk's wild pass from a ruck was pounced upon by Richie Mo'unga, who kicked ahead before being halted just short of the line. Makazole Mapimpi was penalised for not releasing the number 10, but the wing avoided a yellow card and the All Blacks merely picked up three points to level the score when a try had appeared highly likely.

    New Zealand had found their mojo, though, and in a matter of minutes they took complete control with two stunning tries in quick succession.

    Hansen's decision to start Beauden Barrett - widely viewed as the world's finest fly-half - at full-back in order to accommodate Mo'unga has prompted much debate, but the presence of two playmakers was certainly influential as the All Blacks hit top gear.

    Mo'unga's cross-field kick to Sevu Reece started the move that led to the first try. Reece promptly skinned the out-of-position Mapimpi before working the ball through Aaron Smith to a galloping Ardie Savea. From the next phase, Barrett surged through a gap from second receiver and laid on a simple finish for George Bridge.

    Barrett was also heavily involved in the passage of play that led up to the All Blacks' second score, which was finished by namesake Scott Barrett after Anton Lienert-Brown had dazzlingly weaved past five defenders.

    Having been 3-0 down and on the rack, New Zealand were suddenly 14 points to the good and their opponents understandably appeared somewhat stunned for the remainder of the half.

    To their credit, the Springboks did battle back gamely after the interval, but they had been left with too much to do.

    It has been 12 years since the All Blacks last lost a World Cup fixture. Their magical six-minute blitz on Saturday suggests it will take something special to deny them another title.

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: Read proud of clinical All Blacks Rugby World Cup 2019: Read proud of clinical All Blacks

    Kieran Read was pleased with the clinical edge New Zealand showed as they saw off South Africa 23-13 in their opening game at the Rugby World Cup.

    The Springboks started the highly anticipated Pool B clash in Yokohama - which will also host the final - positively but only scored three points through Handre Pollard during their period of dominance.

    When Richie Mo'unga set upon a loose pass from Faf de Klerk and was illegally challenged by Makazole Mapimpi, the fly-half restored parity and kick-started a six-minute spell in which the reigning champions racked up 17 points.

    George Bridge scored his eighth try in six Tests before a handling error from Pollard preceded Scott Barrett running in the All Blacks' second.

    Pieter-Steph du Toit made the most of some slack New Zealand defending after the restart and Pollard was successful with a drop-goal from distance, but Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett kept the Springboks at arm's length from the tee.

    "It was a heck of Test match. It was the full 80 minutes that we had to work," said All Blacks skipper Read.

    "You're fortunate [that] sometimes it just happens in those couple of moments and we managed to take them. That's probably the difference in the game.

    "We had to defend a little bit early on and when you don't have the ball you can't do too much, so when we did get opportunities we wanted to try to speed the game up."

    Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi was frustrated his team did not punish New Zealand further when they had the chance, having reduced their arrears to four points in the second half.

    "I think we took too long to get into the game," said Kolisi, despite his side appearing to be firmly on top during the first quarter.

    "I think we stuck to our guns and our plan worked in the second half. We wanted to score first and it happened, but we couldn't capitalise on our opportunities."

    Beauden Barrett, who started at full-back, played on with a bloody nose after being hit in the face by Duane Vermeulen's boot when trying to tackle the forward.

    Barrett said: "It's a bit sore. It's never good getting a boot to the nose, especially from a big lad like Duane. You expect to take a few bumps when you play the Springboks, so it was worth it.

    "We got to throw the ball around a bit – sometimes too much, it was a bit greasy out there, but there was some expansive rugby. If we can keep doing that all tournament that's what we're here for."

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: New Zealand 23-13 South Africa Rugby World Cup 2019: New Zealand 23-13 South Africa

    New Zealand were unforgiving as they punished South Africa errors to get their Rugby World Cup title defence under way with a thrilling 23-13 victory in the blockbuster Pool B clash in Yokohama.

    Rugby Championship winners South Africa had been tipped as the leading contenders to dethrone New Zealand in Japan and they piled the pressure on the All Blacks in the early stages.

    However, they only had three points from Handre Pollard to show for their efforts before sloppiness set in during a six-minute blitz that included tries from George Bridge and Scott Barrett.

    Pieter-Steph du Toit crossed and Pollard scored a fine drop-goal as the Springboks regained a foothold in the second half, but the All Blacks were able to retain their record of having never lost a group stage match.

    Pollard split the posts in the second minute after Bridge was pinged for not releasing the ball, and the Springboks maintained their commanding start.

    He then hit the upright from the tee after Faf de Klerk intelligently won another penalty, but the scrum-half's stray pass was pounced on by Richie Mo'unga and Makazole Mapimpi's illegal attempt to win it back led to the fly-half restoring parity.

    The champions had clicked into gear and Mo'unga's cross-field kick enabled Sevu Reece to charge down the right, setting a move in motion that ended with Beauden Barrett darting through a gap and offloading for Bridge to score his eighth try in six Tests.

    New Zealand punished another mistake when Pollard dropped a high ball and Anton Lienert-Brown skipped in off the right before sending Scott Barrett under the posts, while Mo'unga missed a chance to make it 20-3 at the break from the left touchline.

    Du Toit took advantage of a defensive lapse from the All Blacks to run straight in from a ruck in the 48th minute and Pollard reduced the arrears to four points with a stunning drop-goal from 40 yards out.

    Mo'unga slotted through another penalty and the boot of Beauden Barrett helped keep the Springboks at bay as New Zealand extended their winning run in World Cups to 15 matches.

     

    De Klerk opens the door

    South Africa were in complete control until De Klerk's sloppy pass was set upon by Mo'unga, and it proved to be the turning point. New Zealand added 17 points in the next five minutes to underline their status as favourites for the trophy, with Rassie Erasmus likely to have concerns over the fitness of Trevor Nyakane and Cheslin Kolbe after late injuries.

    Barrett at full-back pays off

    Hansen's decision to play Mo'unga at fly-half and Beauden Barrett at 15 paid dividends, with both playing important roles as playmakers as the All Blacks tore South Africa apart in the first half. The latter was then granted the chance to play the last 10 minutes in his favoured position.

    What's next?

    The Springboks return to action against neighbours Namibia in Toyota next Saturday, while the All Blacks must wait until October 2 to take on Canada in Oita.

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