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Three key things from the World Cup Final

SPOTLIGHT: South Africa won a record fourth World Cup title on Saturday, beating three-time winners New Zealand 12-11 in a thrilling and gritty encounter at the Stade de France.

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Here are three key things from the Final:

Flood of cards

Prior to Saturday’s match only New Zealand’s Ben Smith in 2015 had been yellow carded in a Final. By the end of the match at the Stade de France four had been sin-binned and All Blacks captain Sam Cane made history in becoming the first player to be red carded.

Cane had dreamed of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy to make history for the All Blacks being the first team to win the title four times.

But the 31-year-old could only sit impotently on the sidelines after his yellow for a high tackle on Jesse Kriel was upgraded to a red towards the end of the first-half.

He sat looking astonished on his seat pitchside as referee Wayne Barnes waved the card towards him.

Cane’s seat had been warmed for him by teammate Shannon Frizell when the flanker’s knee went in on Bongi Mbonambi’s knee in an illegal ruck clear-out.

At one point Cane could have been joined by the Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi as the flank was yellow carded for a high tackle early in the second-half.

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However, he was cleared to return, only for his teammate Cheslin Kolbe to be sent to the seat as the match wound down to its climax.

Hookers’ tale of woe

Neither of the starting hookers made it to the end of the match.

Mbomambi’s lasted just three minutes – 18 minutes less than he spent on the pitch in the 2019 Final when a knock to the head ended his interest in the game.

The early withdrawal of the Springboks’ only specialist hooker was probably not the news his 37-year-old replacement, converted back-row forward Deon Fourie, wanted.

However, it was his All Blacks opposite number Codie Taylor who had a poor first-half, losing two key line-outs. Prior to the Final the All Blacks had lost just one in the tournament.

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Taylor looked out of sorts and although his performance was not as poor as the one in the semifinal defeat by England in 2019, he was still taken off in the 65th minute.

Fourie, having initially looked assured, went off the rails slightly in the second-half, fatigue perhaps playing a role, as the All Blacks stole two of his line-outs in quick succession.

However, the old warhorse stuck admirably to the task and came up with a crucial turnover midway through the second period, as well as making 21 tackles.

Du Toit – a one-man wrecking machine

Man-of-the-match went to Springbok flank Pieter-Steph du Toit, who put in a stunning demonstration of ferocious tackling.

The 31-year-old came up with 14 tackles in the first period as he plagued the All Blacks, sometimes veering onto the edge of legitimacy.

Jordie Barrett was a magnet for du Toit, who never takes any prisoners.

Du Toit nailed Barrett twice with late tackles early on to let him know he was around.

One into the ribs produced a rueful smile from the All Blacks centre and cost the Springboks three points as Richie Mo’unga slotted over the penalty.

Du Toit, though, was undeterred and his crushing tackle on WIll Jordan inside the All Blacks’ 22 put them under so much pressure they conceded a penalty shortly afterwards.

Du Toit got away with one in the second-half when he was penalised for a tackle on another of the Barrett brothers, Scott, but the All Blacks went for touch instead of an easy three points.

The Springboks defended their line brilliantly and turned the ball over.

Du Toit, who finished with a whopping 28 tackles, had not finished yet with poor Jordie Barrett, knocking him backwards with a bone-cracker of a hit as the All Blacks ran it out of their 22 in the closing minutes.

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