South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus spoke of his pride after his players sealed the country’s third Rugby World Cup with a stunning victory over England.
England came into Saturday’s final in Yokohama as favourites after accounting for defending champions New Zealand in the last four, while the Springboks had edged past Wales.
But South Africa controlled the showpiece in an emphatic 32-12 victory, with Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe scoring the only two tries of the match and Handre Pollard adding 22 points with the boot.
Duane Vermeulen inspired South Africa with a man-of-the-match performance and Erasmus felt his team’s cohesion proved decisive in a year that also saw them win the Rugby Championship.
“I’m so proud of them, we fought hard until the end,” Erasmus said after the match.
“I just think the boys believed in themselves, we are a bunch of guys who have been together for 19 weeks and we know one another really well.
“We have got so much respect for England and we really prepared well. I think we were also a little bit fortunate but we are really enjoying it at this stage.
“To the Springboks supporters I would like to say we never felt alone here in Japan, we felt them all the way.
“Not just the supporters here in Japan, but also those back home – all the messages on WhatsApp, Facebook, the Twitter feeds. We know there are millions there, we know they support us.
“We love them. We can’t wait to get back home.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) 2 November 2019
South Africa are the first team to win the World Cup having lost a pool game, reeling off six straight victories after dropping their opening match to New Zealand.
Erasmus, who assumed head coach duties in March 2018, is stepping down from that role after the tournament but continuing as director of rugby.
He was asked what he had identified as key priorities to get the Springboks back to the top when he first took charge of the team.
Erasmus said: “Just use our players and the intelligence, all the resources and supporters we have in South Africa.
“There are so many good things we have in South Africa. In the past we always seemed to look at all the bad things.
“We just decided, ‘Listen let’s stand together and work really hard and play well on the field and all the other things from that will come out later’.
“I think that’s what we did and eventually now we have won the World Cup, so that’s great.”