Abiding memory

Who knows if France’s Thomas Ramos would have converted Peato Mauvaka’s try from the touch-line - a tournament-leading 21 conversions suggests there's a good chance - but Cheslin Kolbe (pictured) racing 20 metres to charge down the full-back’s attempt was probably crucial in South Africa’s 29-28 win in a quarter-final classic that dashed the home nation’s dreams of World Cup glory. "You don't see that often - somebody chasing a lost cause," said head coach Jacques Nienaber. Kolbe would also figure in a classic final, unable to watch his side seal victory as he sat on the sidelines with his head in his hands after receiving a late yellow card. 

Try of the tournament

It has to be Kurt-Lee Arendse's in South Africa's opening Pool B game against Scotland, if only for the assist by Manie Libbok, a perfectly weighted, no-look kick. "I practise that stuff a lot so it was good that it came off," the fly-half said.

Quote that said it all

The connection between the players and the 60 million people back in South Africa was a constant theme for captain Siya Kolisi, his comments before the semi-final with England probably the pick of a big bunch: "The kids at schools are sending us clips of them singing because they know some of us like singing. People at work on Fridays are wearing their green jerseys, anything that is green. We see that and that will continuously be our motivation. The majority of the people in our country are unemployed and some have no homes. For me, giving up and not giving everything would be cheating."

Man of the moment

Has to be Kolisi despite the yellow card in the final. A hugely influential figure on the field, leading his side by example from flanker, but he is just as impressive off it with his eloquent, thoughtful answers to any question fired at him. Surely a career in politics beckons once he has hung up his boots, but for now he can celebrate joining New Zealand's Richie McCaw as the only men to lift the trophy twice. 

One for the future

The likes of Damian Willemse and Libbok will be at their peak come Rugby World Cup 2027, but Canan Moodie could be the star of the show in Australia. Just 20, the centre has blistering pace and great vision as he showed with his try and assist in the victory over Tonga.

From the touchline

Rugby can be a brutally tough sport, but after a match it is all about respect. That was the case after South Africa’s 49-18 victory over Tonga when both teams came together to form a huge circle on the field in Marseille before bowing their heads and kneeling together in prayer then swapping shirts with Kolisi exchanging his with Tonga captain Ben Tameifuna, saying: "It was a really beautiful moment.”

Key statistics

Defence and discipline were key for the Springboks who conceded the third-fewest penalties (averaging 8.5 per match) in their run to the final. The scrum also proved crucial with a 100 per cent success on their own put-in against the heavyweight packs of France and England in the knockout stages, thanks in part to the Springboks’ much-vaunted ‘bomb squad’ who turned the game against England.

Editor’s verdict

South Africa had by far the hardest route to the final of facing the other five of the top six teams in the world rankings (Ireland, New Zealand, France, England and Scotland) losing narrowly to Ireland in the pool stage. And they won it the hard way showing supreme courage and determination to win all their three knock-out games by a single point. Extraordinary.