The tension was so high that the Webb Ellis Cup could have been squeezed and compressed into gold bullion. A flawed but compelling final that Cheslin Kolbe watched through his finger tips as South Africa, remarkably, became the first nation to be crowned champions four times.
It is maximum intensity. Eviscerating physicality. A superheavyweight fight that went right to the end of the 12th round. It was beautifully ugly. Painfully compelling. High stakes rugby that ended with 14 against 14 after a red card for Sam Cane and a yellow card for Kolbe.
There were riotous scenes of joy and relief in the South African corner as they held on with a desperate defensive stand. Pieter-Steph du Toit put in an incredible 28 tackles – most of which were so strong that they would reverberate through Paris.
The pre-match show was full of glitz and glamour. Dan Carter and Sophie Turner presented the trophy in a Louis Vuitton casket, before Mika took to the stage in a sparkling suit, almost smashing the windows with his falsetto notes. The action on the pitch could not have been anymore different. Grit and grunt. A total dogfight in the rain.
Siya Kolisi led South Africa to their second successive Rugby World Cup title on Saturday
The Springboks defeated New Zealand at the Stade de France by a point, holding on to claim a 12-11 victory
It was heartache for the All Blacks at full-time, with New Zealand’s players sinking to their haunches after giving everything on the field
The last time these rugby teams met in a World Cup final was in 1995, when Nelson Mandela presented the trophy to Francois Pienaar wearing a Springboks jersey. For so long the shirt had been associated with white privilege but in 80 minutes it became a symbol of unity. It was even turned into a Hollywood movie.
Under Siya Kolisi, the national team has once again become a tool of togetherness. They delve into their hardships and use it as a force for the greater good, reaching an emotional pinnacle the opposition can struggle to live with.
But this week’s racism allegations against Bongi Mbonambi have been damaging and the hooker was under the spotlight.
He was his team’s only specialist hooker but after 90 seconds his night was over. All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell rolled all 114kg of his weight onto the side of his knee at the ruck and his joint buckled.
It was a dirty, ugly clearout that resulted in a yellow card for Frizell. Curiously, Mbonambi was only registered as a tactical substitution as he limped off.
Ill-discipline was the story of the game. Penalties gifted points and Handre Pollard took every three pointer that came his way.
The Springboks buckled up defensively. The All Blacks tried to find edges in attack but men in green flew up to prevent the ball from reaching the wide channels.
It was a tough night for All Blacks’ captain Sam Cane, who was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Jesse Kriel, before it was upgraded to a red
Aaron Smith (L) also made his final international appearance in the All Blacks’ jersey and crossed the try line for the All Blacks, only for it to be pulled back following a knock on in the build up
Despite having a try ruled out, Beauden Barrett (R) would touch down soon after in the second half to score the only try of the game
Every defensive read was like a special play, with Pieter Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth launching into tackles like human missiles.
The lineout malfunctioned on both sides. Codie Taylor missed his targets and South African replacement Deon Fourie – a flanker by trade – was found out.
South Africa’s kicking from hand was more accurate and their chase was ferocious, pinning the Kiwis back in their own 22.
The physicality was huge and Cane lost control when he hit Jessie Kriel high in the 28th minute. It was a yellow card with a bunker review, eventually upgraded to red. Disaster for the Kiwis.
Pollard and Jordie Barrett exchanged penalties and half-time the Boks were leading by four kicks to two.
They played Zombie by the Cranberries in a brasserie in Place de la Republique on Saturday morning.
The barista hummed along to the tune by herself and it was impossible not to imagine how many people would have been joining in if Ireland or France had made this final.
The World Cup party fell flat after those nations crashed out in the quarter finals, when these two rugby heavyweights of the southern hemisphere asserted their dominance, but the South African fans brought the noise. They even had their own rendition during the break.
The Springboks almost broke clear early in the second half. Damian de Allende was held up and he may well have scored if Kolisi has passed the ball a fraction earlier. Next up Kurt-Lee Arendse was hit in to touch metres from the tryline and the All Blacks were on the ropes.
They were under pressure from every angle but Kolisi got his timing wrong and was sin-binned for a high shot on Ardie Savea.
The momentum swung but the All Blacks were wasteful in the red zone. Aaron Smith, playing his final Test, had a score ruled out for a knock on by Savea at the maul. But they kept pushing for the try, opting for lineouts as the penalty count shot up.
Ox Nche and RG Snyman, the first members of the Bomb Squad, came off the bench to repel a driving maul but the resistance eventually broke.
Jordie Barrett through a huge looping pass to Telea who danced around the tackles with his footwork and flopped a questionable offload into the hands of Beauden Barrett to score the first try in the corner.
Fourie’s set piece frailties were exposed. Veteran lock Sam Whitelock came off the bench and ordered his half-backs to kick for touch at every opportunity. They picked off his throws and also got the better of him at the scrum.