2023 Rugby World Cup Final: 5 Key Battles Between the All Blacks and Springboks - Ruck

2023 Rugby World Cup Final: 5 Key Battles Between the All Blacks and Springboks

We are nearly at the finish line. The pinnacle match of every four years kicks off this Saturday evening, as New Zealand take on South Africa in Paris, for the 2023 Rugby World Cup Final.

The stakes could not be higher, as this match will write the next chapter into the Rugby World Cup history books. Both sides are out to become the first nation to win a record setting fourth Rugby World Cup, and solidify themselves as the best team in the world.

Cam Roigard of New Zealand hands off Manie Libbok of South Africa during the Test Match between New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on August 25th 2023. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

South Africa are the reigning World Champions, having earned the accolade four years ago, in Japan’s Yokohama Stadium. The Springboks want to win back-to-back titles, and become just the second side to complete this feat after New Zealand’s dominance from 2011 to 2015.

Both squads are brimming with Rugby World Cup winners, none more so than All Blacks second row Sam Whitelock, who’s looking for a record-setting third Rugby World Cup winners medal. Both the All Blacks and Springboks boast star-studded line-ups, and we’ve selected five key battles to watch for this Saturday’s Rugby World Cup Final.


Richie Mo’unga of New Zealand runs forward with the ball during the Test Match between New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on August 25th 2023. – PHOTO: George Beck/PPAUK

This Saturday’s match will feature three of the world’s best fly-halves, with Beauden Barrett likely to once again run out at fullback for the All Blacks. New Zealand’s number 10 jersey for the 2023 Rugby World Cup has long been obtained by Richie Mo’unga, who has been at his playmaking best for his side’s fearsome return to form. This halfback battle takes a key focus on kick success, as Richie Mo’unga had a sub-par showing from the boot, in the semi-final win over Argentina.

Mo’unga missed four out of seven conversions against Los Pumas, leaving eight points on the pitch in Saint-Denis. Such margins thankfully did not matter for the All Blacks, who’s 6-44 triumph stands as the second highest Rugby World Cup semi-final win of all time. However, Mo’unga can not afford to let such key points slip against tougher opposition, who are far less forgiving than Los Pumas. Namely the Springboks.

Throughout his 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign, Mo’unga has taken 30 shots at goal (29 conversions and one penalty), with just 18 of his efforts sailing through the uprights. This gives the fly-half a completion rate of 60%, which could well be a deciding factor if the South African defence grinds the match down to a halt, with penalties being the only way to get points on the board. The Springboks have shown their hand regarding their desire to succeed in this area, through Manie Libbok’s unceremonious with-drawl in last weekend’s semi-final against England.

Libbok was substituted off, with little over half an hours play on the clock. Rassie Erasmus showed his ruthless side, with Handre Pollard flung on to take the reigns from Libbok, who’s kicking has come under constant scrutiny throughout his campaign in France. Libbok excels in all other areas of his game, however he needs to sharpen up when lining up shots at goal. Pollard will likely lead the Springboks out in the Rugby World Cup Final, after rescuing his side from the jaws of defeat against England.

Handre Pollard of South Africa during the Autumn Nations Match between England and South Africa at Twickenham Stadium on 20 November 2021. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Steve Borthwick’s men were just three minutes away from back-to-back Finals, when Pollard slotted a thunderous penalty from just inside the England half. The Leicester Tigers man won’t be very popular on his return to Welford Road, but will likely win his teammates back round with his excellent goal kicking. Pollard’s accuracy from the tee was also the key difference in the epic quarter-final win over France, as he nailed a decisive penalty to stretch the Springboks lead away from Les Bleus.

The only time New Zealand and South Africa have met in the Rugby World Cup Final was in 1995, with the match decided by the finest of margins. No tries were scored in the kicking battle between Andrew Mehrtens and Joel Stransky, with Stransky’s extra-time drop goal sealing an iconic win for the Springboks. Some 28 years later, the two Southern Hemisphere titans are back in the final, and the winner of the Web Ellis trophy come well be decided by who brought their shooting boots to the Stade de France.