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RWC 2023 | South Africa post match press conference

sa rugby

NZL 11-12 RSA: South Africa reaction (head coach Nienaber, captain Kolisi, Du Toit, Willemse, Kleyn, Fourie, Kriel, Pollard, Nche, De Allende) - REACTION

SAINT-DENIS - Reaction from South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber, captain Siya Kolisi, back-row Pieter-Steph du Toit, full-back Damian Willemse, second-row Jean Kleyn, hooker Deon Fourie, centre Jesse Kriel, fly-half Handre Pollard, prop Ox Nche and centre Damian de Allende after their team's 12-11 win over New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup 2023 final at Stade de France.

Damian de Allende, centre

On how it feels:

"It's incredible. I don't think it has sunk in yet. It was a tough old test match. These past three games have been quite tough mentally for us, emotionally as well, physically too. One point each game but we got through it. The All Blacks were incredible tonight. I think the result is incredible."

On if he has a third successive win in 2027 win in him:

"I would love to say yes but at the moment I have to take it year by year. I am getting a little bit older, my body is taking a bit longer to recover. It was tough this week and last week, it was the first time I have played games back to back and the first time I have played three games in a row since I played in Japan [2019]."

Ox Nche, prop

On what it means to win his first Rugby World Cup:

“It means a lot. I don’t know how to describe it. It is a feeling that is out of this world. To have a special group of guys like this. Deon [Fourie], he is 37 years old - in the first few minutes in a World Cup final our starting hooker goes down; we lost Malcolm Marx earlier. If we stay united we can achieve anything. That’s what it means to me.”

On what cake he is going to eat to celebrate:

“I’m thinking caramel cheesecake. I saw it earlier at the hotel.”

On his journey to reach this point:

"I made my debut in 2018, watched the 2019 World Cup at home from the couch and I told my friends in four years’ time that is where I wanted to be. And I am here, thank God.”

On what it tells us that the Springboks won their quarter-final, semi-final and the final by one point each time:

“It shows our resilience. In South Africa that is what we are made of. When you think we are down that’s when we come out and shock you and show you that we can achieve anything.”

On head coach Jacques Nienaber departing for Leinster:

“It is a massive loss. It is just life. You have to make those difficult choices.”

On his plans:

“Tonight I’ll have a good time and then I’d like to get to travel South Africa a bit.”

On second-row Eben Etzebeth, nominated for World Player of the Year:

"He is a legend. I play with him at the Sharks as well. You’d be very shocked at what type of person he is. He has a lot of humility... even though you don’t see it on the field much (laughs). He is a great guy, a good leader.”

Jessie Kriel, centre 

On how they manage to win so many tight games:

“Tonight was so intense, exactly what you expect from a World Cup final. The guys dug in again and fought hard. As a South African, as a Springbok, you always believe you are going to win. You don’t have doubts. Winning is a mindset, something we train for and that belief came through again.”

On Roger Federer and the Prince and Princess of Monaco celebrating in their dressing room:

"Roger is a good friend of Siya's (Kolisi) and Princess Charlene and Prince Albert are good friends of South Africa. It was just so special to have them there, people that have obviously experienced similar situations and victories. 

"He (Federer) had his South African shirt on and a lot of us during the game saw it on the big screen and it gave us a lot of motivation. Special to have that calibre of people in our dressing room wearing South African shirts."

Handre Pollard, fly-half

On the feeling of victory:

“It is unbelievable. It is more relief than happiness at the moment. It will maybe take a few days or even weeks to realise what we have done.”

On the kicking game required:

“The conditions played a big part. The weather was certainly interesting. In the first half we played a kicking game and put them under pressure. Then there were cards flying about all over the place.

“The second half was more containment and limiting the damage. Even though they scored, we limited them to five points. This team has a never-say-die attitude.”

On his 100 per cent kicking at goal success rate in Stade de France and at this World Cup: 

"When you are actually out on the field it is pretty normal, it's just rugby, man. Once you are in the cathedral you just get going and trust your process. The trust the guys have in myself and the trust I have in them... if you miss it, it's not the end of the world for us, we don't see it that way. 

"There's not a lot going on, it's pretty simple, to be honest. 

"For me now, it will be remembered as a nice place to kick. Not all stadiums are like that unfortunately. I will have fond memories of this place for sure."

Deon Fourie, hooker

On what he thought when Mbongeni Mbonambi got injured so early:

"It wasn't part of the plan. He was due to do the game but accidents happen. We thought we'd given him a few minutes to see how he goes but luckily I've played a few games in the World Cup. I came through the 75 minutes. It was tough on the body, a few cramps and all that stuff. But at the end of the day we've got the medal around our neck which is all that counts."

On Pieter-Steph du Toit making 28 tackles and him making 21 tackles:

"I haven't seen the stats, but it felt like it. I was tired and I was in a dark place. At that stage of the game both my hammies [hamstrings] were cramping and my calfs were cramping and I felt bad around my shoulder but I knew I couldn't go off as Mbongeni was already injured and we needed a hooker. Bit the bullets and luckily we got to the end."

On what got him through that time:

"All the messages and videos and stuff we got from back home was definitely inspiring. I can imagine what went on in South Africa tonight."

Jean Kleyn, second-row

On what the win means:

"It is an incredible thing to be a part of. I don't think there is a country in the world that puts so much into a World Cup, it means so much to the people."

On the winning the quarter, semi and the final by a point:

"Rassie [Erasmus] said a few weeks ago, it is a sign of a really good team if you win the matches you are not supposed to win. Last week was definitely a match that we won at the death. I think today we earned it, quarter-finals we earned it. The belief in the team is immense and I don't think for one minute we thought would lose that match."

On Rassie Erasmus and his expectations:

"I had zero expectations [when first speaking to Rassie], I just thought it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. What a privilege to be able to play for my country of birth. It's a little boy's dream."

On not playing all the games:

"You buy into the plan ... not being selfish about it, that epitomises this team. We are all here for the same thing."

On Siya Kolisi:

"It is something from the outside you don't necessarily understand. His entire journey epitomises the South African dream, striving through the difficult things, what other people would call impossible."

Damian Willemse, full-back

On what inspires them to win close games:

“We do it for the people of South Africa. We do it for each other. We do it for our families. People don’t really have the money but they have made their way here to support us.

“I am really proud of everyone, for putting their bodies on the line and sacrificing themselves. That is what we have to do to win a World Cup. It is really special to be part of it. I am just really proud to be South African.”

On whether they felt unstoppable:

“No, I don’t think so. We knew it was going to take a massive effort to beat the All Blacks. They are a great team who have been in great form these past few weeks. The red card did change the game from a technical point of view, but we knew the All Blacks weren’t going to die. We said at half-time the momentum was going to swing to them at some stage but we absorbed that pressure very well.”


Jacques Nienaber, head coach

On his overriding emotions:

“Relief is probably the first word that comes to mind, in the sense of the special group of players we have. As a management and leadership group we always thought ‘we can’t mess this up’. 

"From 2018 we thought we had the ability to win the 2023 World Cup. [The Rugby World Cup win in] 2019 was probably something that hopped on along the way, but it is relief for the players, they were good enough to do that.

“This is probably for our fans and for South Africa. I wish I could show you the amount of messages we have received and what is going on in South Africa. We have 62 million people united, opening up communities to allow people to watch, an entrance fee of whatever they wanted to donate. People have bought green T-shirts for everyone. We felt every single bit of energy they gave us and in the last three games, all one-point victories, that drove us.”

On bringing fly-half Handre Pollard back into the squad:

“When it comes to team selection, I probably have to give credit to the team. Manie [Libbok] probably deserves it, a guy like Cobus [Reinach] deserves it. But we have 33 players who are the right players. They are not always the best in their positions. When we go with a strategy and explain it, guys like Cobus and Manie accept it.

“They probably deserved to play in this match. I’m not saying we are geniuses, we don’t try to be creative and think out the box, but it is just the squad we have, the depth we have, how close the players are, it maybe gives us an option to go a little bit different to normal. It is not genius, just the players we have gives us different tactical viewpoints.

“We also have all our families and kids with us. So Manie’s fiance, Cobus’s wife, they have to put the pieces together because they are disappointed. But within two or three hours, they accept their role. Manie was the best Richie Mo’unga he could have been this week. He studied him, his mannerisms. Cobus studied Aaron Smith. That’s the strength of the group, there are 33 players who don’t have egos, and they buy into it.”

On losing hooker ‘Bongi’ Mbonambi after just two minutes:

“If you’d asked me which injuries we wouldn’t like early on, it would be Bongi and Faf [de Klerk]. But that’s the decision we made with the squad we selected. There is always risk involved but we mitigated that.

"I don’t know how many lineouts we lost but with Deon Fourie, if there are maybe 16 lineouts in a game, there are 120, 150 rucks in a game, and he makes 20 tackles. Sometimes the lineouts he loses, he makes up for it in other ways. At whatever age he is - 37 - to put in a shift like that is special. I have coached Deon since he was 20 years old and I always knew he had that dog in him.”

On what he said to New Zealand head coach Ian Foster after the game:

“I don’t know a lot of coaches actually, none except him. He’s the only guy I ever have conversations with. That speaks to the kind of person he is. Before the warm-up game we had at Twickenham, there was a cocktail function a day or two before where myself and my wife and him were chatting away for 40 minutes about life and family.

“I am happy for us but my heart breaks for him because I know what it feels like. He is an exceptional human being and an unbelievable coach. He has been written off numerous times but the quality team the All Blacks are, they find a way. If you look at sports teams in the world, all of them, they are probably one of the most successful teams, they always have been. He is a leader of that and he is a quality individual.”

On Pieter-Steph du Toit’s 28 tackles:

“He was phenomenal. Defence is my department and he was exceptional. I must say in the last couple of games, he wanted it desperately. Not only him, but everyone wanted it desperately. He put himself in the right positions. I always joke that if there’s a white plastic bag that blows over the field, he would probably chase that down as well. ‘The Malmesbury Missile’, he was like a machine.”

Siya Kolisi, captain

On his feelings about winning the Rugby World Cup again:

"At the last World Cup the country was hopeful that maybe there was a chance we could win it and what transpired afterwards was the belief between this team.

"There is not a lot of things going right in our country and we have the privilege to be able to do what we love and inspire people in life, not just sports people.

"Where I come from I couldn't dream I could be here today. We come from different walks of life. I had my own goals and ambitions. I want to look after my family, I want to give back to my community. You need to come and see South Africa to understand. When we come together nothing can stop us, not just in sport but also in life."

On the red card for New Zealand captain Sam Cane and his nerves after getting a yellow card:

"It's never nice for any player to get a card but we knew when they got the card they would lift. We spoke about that at half-time and they did.

"I was nervous but I watched the video and I did change level so it was a secondary [movement]. I trusted the guys around me. It was difficult and messy but we've been in these situations before and I trusted the guys. When I came back on I gave everything."

On the challenges this team has been through to win three knockout games by one point:

"Coach Rassie [Erasmius] said great things are never achieved in ideal conditions, and this wasn't ideal conditions for us as a group. Playing the home team in their home country was one of the hardest things to do and obviously when we played the last game against England, which was tight, we had to fight and today as well, no different. 

"The motivation was everything from home and our families. The coaches created an environment for us where we can be with our families no matter where we are, it feels like we are home. There are 15-20 kids running round the hotel. It's one of the greatest things they could have done for us.

"People also from South Africa, some of our friends, they've used their savings to come and watch us. 

"For me not to give my 100 per cent on the field would be cheating all those people and that's what the coaches always remind us of. The motivations for us, we don't have to look far."

On the coaching team:

"It hasn't been an easy journey. I can't believe what we've achieved today. The coaching staff have been ridiculous. I have worked with Jacques since I was 17 years old. I couldn't tackle. When him and Rassie [Erasmus] used to come to training it was full contact. You had to show that you could do this. 

"Since then, how he used to motivate us in games. We grew up around him - me and Frans [Malherbe], Steven Kitshoff and Pieter-Steph [du Toit]. As I said last week, he cared about us as people. He asks, 'are you going to let your daughter down, your son down?' It became far deeper than just a rugby game.
"Jacques, honestly, it's been a huge honour for me and a huge privilege, and your wife and the kids... I appreciate you. We love you as a team, not as a coach, but as a person. You've taken it to another level. The way you speak to us - it's not 'make a big hit, make a tackle', you talk to me as a person, as a father, a husband, as a son, it goes such a long way so thank you. We honour you as a team. All the best. They will be lucky too have you wherever you go."
Pieter-Steph du Toit, Mastercard Player of the Match
On what is going through his mind straight after the final whistle:

"It is an honour and privilege to play for this team. The last three games have been quite tough. We played each one as a final and each one was [won] by one point. We are quite happy with the win."

On getting through the drama, with him having made 28 tackles in the match:

"I guess as a team we like drama. We have had drama for the last few years. It helped us a lot as a team to get through the drama and cope with it and it shows the resilience of the team and the whole of South Africa."

On winning four Rugby World Cups:

"For all of South Africa, we are honoured to be able to play for you guys and the Springboks. I know when we go back home it will be a warm welcome for us. I want to thank everyone for supporting us."

Siya Kolisi, captain

On winning back-to-back Rugby World Cups:

"There are no ways I can explain it. I want to give credit to the All Blacks. They took us to the end, they took us to a dark place. It shows what kind of team they are, to fight with a man down from early in the game. They put us under so much pressure.

"Credit to my boys too for the fight. I am just grateful we could pull it off."

On how the team managed to win:

"We had to. We lost our hooker in the early part of the game and we had to adjust to that. They put a lot of pressure on our lineouts but somehow we found a way.

"People who are not from South Africa don't understand what it means for our country. It is not just about the game. Our country goes through such a lot. We are just grateful that we can be here. I want to tell the people of South Africa 'thank you so much'. This team just shows what you can do. As soon as we work together, all is possible, no matter in what sphere - in the field, in offices, it shows what we can do. I am grateful for this team, I am so proud of it."

Jacques Nienaber, head coach

On the achievement:

"We came a long way with the players. We always planned for this World Cup, since 2018. Massive credit to our fans. They were special from South Africa, 62 million people, the videos we had to play from them. It was unbelievable."

On the strategy:

"The main thing is they're a squad. They have been in a World Cup final before, some of them have played their third World Cup now. I think the experience pulled them through. They are an amazing bunch of guys, they are all warriors and they all love South Africa."

On Mastercard Player of the Match Pieter-Steph du Toit:

"He was outstanding. Defensively, which is my department, he was absolutely outstanding. Well done to him on his man of the match."

Rugby, Springboks, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, RWC 2023, World Champions

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