What the Springboks ‘do better than anyone else’ according to ex-England captain

Jared Wright
South Africa's Damian Willemse celebrates after the Rugby World Cup final match between New Zealand.

South Africa's Damian Willemse celebrates after the Rugby World Cup final match between New Zealand.

Former England captain Chris Robshaw has hailed the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup success and praised South Africa’s attitude in knockout matches.

The Boks claimed back-to-back World Cup titles, beating their fiercest rivals, New Zealand, 12-11 in the 2023 final at the Stade de France.

Jacques Nienaber and Siya Kolisi’s charges won every one of their knockout matches by a single point, defeating tournament hosts France 29-28 in the quarter-final and England 16-15 in the final four before downing the All Blacks.

Never doubting the Springboks

While he admits that it is easy to say in hindsight, Robshaw said that he never doubted that the Boks would win the final and added that Sam Cane’s red card obviously played a role in the result.

“I thought South Africa were going to win it. I know it’s easier to say that now, post [the match], I just thought the conditions really played in their favour, big, heavy forward pack,” Robshaw said on the Digest & Invest podcast by eToro.

“Of course, the red card had a bit of an influence on that, and it’s a massive shame for Sam Cane, but unfortunately, whenever you’re high, you put yourself at an element of risk.

“And then South Africa just managed to hold on; they did what South Africa do, and they just squeeze you, they turn the screw. And whenever you play South Africa, you would always come out of the game thinking, ‘How have we lost that game?’

“But we’ve lost because it’s not like they have breakaway tries and do a lot of magic; they just weigh you down, they put themselves in the right position. They scrum well, they maul well and they have an amazing kicker in Handre Pollard, and unfortunately England suffered on the back of him as well.”

The ex-England skipper praised South Africa’s never-say-die attitude and their clutch in the big matches.

“They just know how to win big games. They won their quarter-final, semi-final and final all by one point. That’s some nerve. That’s some nerve to do that,” he added.

“And they are all big games, I think they came from behind in every one before the final. So it’s that ability to know how to win, and that’s what they do better than anyone else.”

Robshaw jinxing England

While Robshaw was full of praise for the now-four-time Rugby World Cup champions, he did think that England had done enough in their semi-final to defeat the Boks.

Commenting on England’s World Cup, Robshaw said that he thought that Steve Borthwick’s side “would get to a semi-final, and then it was about a bit of luck.”

However, he feels that he jinxed England in the last four clashes during a corporate event.

“Of course, you need to play well. You know what; I was at that semi-final [against South Africa]. I was doing some corporate stuff, and I spoke to them when England were nine points ahead, and I said, ‘They’ve done enough.’ I feel that I cursed because the conditions were horrendous, and they played the perfect game plan,” he said.

“They did what South Africa do to them. They really put them off the game and did really well. Everyone really fronted up physically, and South Africa just clawed their way back in, and then that kick in there by Pollard was it was heartbreaking.”

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