Unsung Bok heroes chased the World Cup sun

Springbok hooker Deon Fourie holds on for dear life as he tries to bring down All Black flank Shannon Frizell in the 2023 World Cup final in Paris. Photo: BackpagePix

Springbok hooker Deon Fourie holds on for dear life as he tries to bring down All Black flank Shannon Frizell in the 2023 World Cup final in Paris. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Apr 24, 2024


There were a number of unsung heroes who came to light in the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup final triumph, the fifth and final episode of the Chasing The Sun 2 documentary aired on M-Net on Sunday revealed.

The Boks faced an enormous task in plotting the downfall of the All Blacks, considering they had squeaked through the quarter-finals and semi-finals with one-point victories over France and England.

Their first obstacle was dealing with hooker Bongi Mbonambi’s disciplinary hearing for an alleged racial slur against England flank Tom Curry in the semi-final – the infamous ‘wit kant’ comment.

Bok boss Rassie Erasmus said during the final episode of Chasing The Sun 2 that he trusted Mbonambi with his life. The firs-choice No 2 sustained a knee injury after just three minutes, courtesy of a cheap-shot ruck clean-out by All Black flank Shannon Frizell – and that led to another unsung hero, flank Deon Fourie, having to play 77 minutes at hooker.

The Stormers stalwart gave it his all, even though he wasn’t perfect in every respect, and was the captain when the final whistle blew.

Before that, scrumhalf Cobus Reinach displayed great maturity when he was axed for Faf de Klerk for the final despite producing a solid display in the semi-final. Reinach was understandably upset but quickly said: “I was selected to serve the team that week.” He and Manie Libbok had to portray Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga in training.

Also before the game, head coach Jacques Nienaber gave an inspirational speech to the players, reminding them of how the critics had made the All Blacks the favourites. Nienaber is often seen as Erasmus’s lieutenant, but in this instance, he led from the front.

“Just a hurdle ... you’re just a f*****g hurdle. Just something that they have to hop over. It’s just a little hop, skip and a jump over,” Nienaber said, with anger visible in his eyes through his set of clear ‘Jurgen Klopp’ glasses.

“They actually didn’t expect you to even go past the f*****g quarter-finals in 2019. But that’s the beauty of this team. They can script anything they want – at the end of the day, we decide what the movie will look like. And I think that f*****g breaks them.

“You guys have the ability to go, ‘F**k you, we will write our own story. You will not f*****g tell us what story to write’. And you know why? Because in your own personal life, you shouldn’t have sit here. You shouldn’t even have been here ...

— SuperSport Rugby (@SSRugby) April 21, 2024

“You told the world, ‘F**k you, I’ll show you’. I’ll show you I will come out on the other side ... I will show you I’ll make it. I will show I will be one of the best teams in the world, on the biggest stage ...

“We can’t let them script our movie, boys. I’m getting emotional – sorry.”

Who wouldn’t want to run through a brick wall for your coach and team after that?

Then, apart from Handré Pollard’s ice-cool goal kicking and Pieter-Steph du Toit’s incredible 28 tackles, there was Cheslin Kolbe agreeing to cover scrumhalf – having been called into a coaches’ meeting with the look of a naughty schoolboy on his face – and the unbearable tension of watching the last eight minutes from the sidelines following his yellow card for a deliberate knockdown.

Kwagga Smith made a number of crucial turnovers and carries in the second half, Kurt-Lee Arendse’s try-saving tackle on Rieko Ioane was one to remember, and Jasper Wiese made ‘that’ carry off the back of the last scrum, to secure the Webb Ellis Cup with a 12-11 victory.

The Boks have a few standout stars, but they were true to their motto of #StrongerTogether to become the first team to win a fourth World Cup title...