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The best stats from World Cup record-breaking Boks

Rugby World Cup 2023: South Africa’s best stats after record fourth triumph

Played four, won four.

South Africa became the first country to win the Rugby World Cup four times on Saturday in Paris, extending their spotless record in the competition.


Back-to-back World Cup victories were achieved with a nail-biting 12-11 victory over New Zealand, sparking discussion about whether they are the best team in history.

The impeccable final record remains

List of South Africa's record in Rugby World Cup finals

Given that South Africa did not participate in the first two World Cups, their record is even more impressive.

The Springboks made their World Cup debut as hosts in 1995 following their readmission to international rugby following the end of apartheid. They have gone on to win four of the eight tournaments in which they have participated:

In the World Cup finals, South Africa had a perfect record of victories, defeating England twice (in 2007 and 2019) and New Zealand twice (1995 and 2023) combined.

Despite only scoring two tries overall—both in the 32–12 victory over England in 2019—they have won those finals.

  • With Beauden Barrett’s score in Paris on Saturday, the Springboks gave up a try in a World Cup final for the first time.

South Africa is the first team to win back-to-back World Cups and the second team to do it when the competitions were held abroad. In 2011, New Zealand emerged victorious in both matches for the first time.

  • The 2019 victory against England included 14 of the 23 South African players who competed in the 2023 final.


The one-point wonders

“After beating the All Blacks, I’m just relieved. The last three games were one-point games, and they weren’t planned that way,” head coach Jacques Nienaber said on BBC Radio 5 Live.

The Springboks won by a single point in the championship match after defeating hosts France 29–28 in the quarterfinals and England 16–15 in the semifinals.

  • Only five of the 66 World Cup knockout games (aside from the third-place play-offs) have been decided by a single point prior to the 2023 competition.
  • By far the smallest margin of victory of any winning nation at a Rugby World Cup is South Africa’s three points through the knockout round.
  • The next-smallest cumulative margin of knockout-stage victories among the nine past champions was 17 points by Australia in 1991, and England’s 31 points in 2003. The biggest is the 90 from New Zealand in the competition’s first year, 1987.

Table showing margin of victories in knockout matches by Rugby World Cup winners

Individual brilliance

Even though captain Sam Cane was sent off in the first half, New Zealand enjoyed the advantage in territory (53%) and ball possession (60%) in the championship match.

The Springboks’ defense had to perform better, which they did, recording 209 tackles in the game, which is considerably more than they had in any other 2023 tournament game (New Zealand finished with 93 tackles in the championship game):

  • Pieter-Steph du Toit, who was named player of the match, set the pace for the Boks with a record-tying 28 tackles. Out of a possible 560 minutes, the back row played more minutes in the World Cup than any other forward for South Africa.
  • With the exception of Bongi Mbonambi, who left the game due to injury after four minutes, every one of their starting forwards in the championship had more than ten tackles.
  • Mbonambi’s successor at hooker, Deon Fourie, came in second position with 21.
  • Row two In the three knockout games for the Springboks, Franco Mostert attempted 49 tackles and did not miss a single one.

Graphic showing breakdown of Handre Pollard's 33 points during the Rugby World CupIn the meantime, Handre Pollard’s consistently dependable boot drove the Springboks just past the All Blacks’ reach.

Due to his continued recuperation from a calf injury, the Leicester fly-half was not included in South Africa’s official 33-man roster. However, he was drafted in when injured hooker Malcolm Marx was ruled out during the pool stage.

He played in the last four games for South Africa and finished with a perfect record from the tee, scoring on all 13 of his shots on goal.

In the second half, Richie Mo’unga and Jordie Barrett missed opportunities to put New Zealand in a position to win, and Pollard scored all 12 of his points in the final in the opening 34 minutes at Stade de France.

To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best

No one can claim that South Africa had an easy path to success in France.

On their route to a fourth World Cup victory, they faced every country ranked between second and sixth in the most recent rankings after finishing at the top of the world rankings.

Ireland, the top-seeded team in the world going into the competition, emerged victorious in a memorable match against the Springboks in the pool stages; nevertheless, South Africa’s earlier victory against Scotland guaranteed them a quarter-final position.

Then, after three spirited victories over England, France, and New Zealand in the knockout stage, they were crowned champions once more.


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