Team of the Week: Rugby World Cup Final and Bronze Medal Match - Page 2 of 3 - Ruck

Team of the Week: Rugby World Cup Final and Bronze Medal Match

10. Handre Pollard (South Africa)

9. Aaron Smith (New Zealand)

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

Starting at fly-half for our Team of the Week is Handre Pollard, after the Leicester Tigers man presented a clinic in goal-kicking, to win his side back-to-back (or Bokke-to-Bokke) Rugby World Cup titles. Pollard was the Springboks’ saviour in their quarter-final win over France, the semi-final victory against England, and once more in the final triumph over New Zealand. Each match was decided by just one point, which goes to show the fine margins that the Rugby World Cup is more often than not decided by.

Pollard had a pre-longed role in the final, differing from his repeated replacement appearances throughout the competition. Rassie Erasmus had enough of Manie Libbok’s poor goal-kicking rate, and left the Stormers’ halfback out of the entire match-day 23, giving Pollard an 80-minute free rein to orchestrate the Springboks attack. Pollard did just that for the Final, and slotted the all-important efforts from the tee in the process. Despite the unrelenting efforts of Faf de Klerk, we’ve given Aaron Smith the nod for our Team of the Week’s number nine jersey.

Aaron Smith of New Zealand is tackled by Trevor Nyakane of South Africa and Marco van Staden 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

In a weekend which saw two of the world’s longest serving international scrum-halves step away from their countries, Smith, along with England’s Ben Youngs, left it all on the line for their final test matches. Smith’s passion for the black jersey burned bright as he led his final haka, and his on-field performance was once again a sight to behold. Cruelly denied a try on his swan-song, due to a knock-on in the tries’ build up, Smith battled for his 65 minute run-out, and ended his career with a sore shoulder after clattering into a top-speed Cheslin Kolbe.


1. Ox Nche (South Africa)

2. Dean Fourie (South Africa)

3. Will Stuart (England)

Onto the forwards now, with two Springbok front-rowers making our team of the week, after their vital contributions in the Rugby World Cup Final. Beginning with Dean Fourie, the replacement hooker was not expecting to play the best part of 77 minutes in the Stade de France, yet was called upon for an early shift following the immediate injury to Bongi Mbonambi.

All Blacks’ back row Shannon Frizzell landed on Mbonambi in a ruck, with all of his weight falling onto the out-stretched leg of the hooker. Fourie has been converted from back-row to hooker for the Rugby World Cup, having last consistently worn the number two jersey as far back as 2018. However, you would not have known this in his performance, as Fourie led the revered South African scrum with aplomb.

Packing down the front row on Fourie’s left, is his Springbok’s teammate Ox Nche. Continuing on his excellent run of form, after taking Kyle Sinckler to scrummaging school in the semi-final, Nche is getting putting rugby’s tight-head props on notice. Coming off the bench for Steven Kitshoff in his trademarked ‘bomb squad’ role, Nche saw off the remaining threat of Tyrel Lomax, and imposed his physicality on new-coming replacement All Black Nepo Laulala.

Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 12 caps) during England Rugby training session at The Lensbury Hotel, Teddington, London on 28 Sept 2021. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

England’s Will Stuart takes the number three shirt for our Team of the Week, and he could well be taking the same jersey for England in the 2024 Six Nations. Stuart was awesome up-front against Argentina, with his dominance imposed early on Thomas Gallo for a scrum penalty. Stuart has been chasing Kyle Sinckler to be England’s leading tight-head since Borthwick’s appointment as Head Coach. If Dan Cole hangs up his international boots, we may well see the Bristol Bears and Bath men interlocked in a tight-head power-struggle.