After seven weeks of top-quality action, the curtains has fallen on the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and it was South Africa who were crowned champions once again on Saturday evening.
A thrilling final in the Stade de France in Paris saw the Springboks edge out New Zealand 12-11 to win the tournament for a record-breaking fourth time while also joining the All Blacks as the only nations to have defended the title.
The one-point victory was South Africa’s third such winning margin in a row, having defeated France 29-28 in the quarter-finals and England in the semi 16-15.
With the dust settling on Saturday’s epic match, we take a closer look at four players who featured in the final and who enjoyed standout tournaments.
Nuggy’s final Rugby World Cup saw him score four tries as he cemented himself as one of the greatest ever 9s to play the game. Sadly, there was to be no fairytale ending for Smith, but his energy throughout the tournament was immense, despite the fact he shortly turns 35. Smith heads to Japan to play for Toyota Verblitz, where he will team up with ex-All-Black teammate Beauden Barrett.
Shortlisted for player of the year, Etzebeth yet again had a standout tournament in the engine room for South Africa. His rampaging try against France in the quarter-final victory epitomises his strength and ability. At 32 years of age, he’s unlikely to feature in Australia in four years, but he will go down as one of the best-ever Sprinboks locks.
The newly-named 2023 World Player of the Year, Savea, yet again, was a powerhouse for the All Blacks. He scored three ties in the tournament and also racked up 47 tackles while also topping the carries charts with 82. One of the best backrowers in the world with the ball in hand or defence, Savea, like several of his All Blacks teammates, now heads to Japan having signed up with Kobelco Kobe Steelers.
Pieter Steph du Toit
Saving his best tournament performance until the final, du Toit recorded a staggering 28 tackles against New Zealand to land himself the Player of the Match award. It’s some achievement for a player who almost lost a leg in 2020 and has suffered two ACL injuries. Du Toit epitomises the never-say-die attitude of the Springboks and goes down as a great of South African rugby with two Rugby World Cup winners medals.