Rugby experts around the world are picking a close match between the All Blacks and the Springboks in the Rugby World Cup final.
Speaking to Sydney Morning Herald writer and Peter Fitzsimons, current Wallabies coach Eddie Jones picked the All Blacks to win.
FitzSimons: Eddie, who’s going to win the World Cup Final?
EJ: I don’t know who the referee is. Is it Wayne Barnes?
Fitz: I have no clue.
EJ: If it’s Wayne Barnes, definitely New Zealand because it’ll be quick ruck ball. If it’s a ref that favours quick ruck ball, it’ll be a penalty goal shoot-out.
Fitz: But if you had to put your right nut on it, right now, who?
EJ: New Zealand
Former England prop Ugo Monye, writing in the Guardian, said the two finalists were the best sides in the world at playing to their strengths. “South Africa’s is the way they use their bench, New Zealand’s is the speed at which they move the ball and I’ve been so impressed how both sides have embraced that during the tournament.”
He said the All Blacks would have learnt from their Twickenham defeat just before the Rugby World Cup.
“It wasn’t a true reflection of them, whereas the victory over Ireland a few weeks later was.”
He went on to highlight South Africa’s depth. “When it comes to their replacements, there is no drop-off; in fact you could argue that there is an increase in terms of physicality, intensity and tactical awareness when they bring their subs on.
He said a fast start will be crucial for deciding the winner.
“The common denominator in the two matches these sides have played this year is that the team who came out of the blocks the fastest, put their gameplan into practice first, ran out comfortable winners. In Auckland, the All Blacks blew South Africa away with their physical intensity and speed of ball; at Twickenham, New Zealand couldn’t get out of their own 22 for the first quarter.”
Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Iain Payten noted that title-winning coaches don’t tend to “flip of the bird to their bosses in the stands” while standing on the victory dais.
“But let’s check in again after the Rugby World Cup final,” wrote the Aussie scribe.
“Victory would taste just a little sweeter than normal for Foster, after learning seven months out from the World Cup that he would be replaced as All Blacks coach in 2024 by Crusaders coach Scott Robertson.
“Foster dropping the mic with a World Cup win would put him in rare company of unwanted coaches winning in their last game. Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson was informed he wouldn’t be re-signed beyond the “Last Dance” season of 1997-98 - which they won - and David Nucifora coached the Brumbies to Super Rugby victory in 2004 after being told he wasn’t needed the following season.
“Ewen McKenzie almost did the same with the Waratahs in 2008. Several coaches have been sacked immediately after winning titles; the most famous being Real Madrid manager Vicente del Bosque in 2003, and winning the La Liga-Champions League double a year earlier.”
BBC pundit Alastair Telfer noted that fatigue could catch up with the Springboks.
“South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber picked the same 23 players in the knockout games against France and England.
“Those intense matches came after pool games against Scotland and Ireland, who like their knockout opponents are both ranked in the top six teams in the world.
“New Zealand’s draw on paper has been considerably kinder, having played only two out of the current top six teams.”
He also noted that rain could be a problem for the All Blacks.
“A wet ball could hinder New Zealand’s renowned fast running game, but it is their kicking game which Grayson believes is their real weapon.”
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