Connect with us


2023 Review: Springboks’ Lowest Low To Highest High Ranked

Retracing the steps of a triumphant season, Quintin van Jaarsveld provides a rundown of the Springboks’ 2023 Test matches and ranks them from the lowest low to the highest high: 


Retracing the steps of a triumphant season, Quintin van Jaarsveld provides a rundown of the Springboks’ 2023 Test matches and ranks them from the lowest low to the highest high: 

13: 35-20 loss to New Zealand in Auckland, 15 July

Cheslin Kolbe was a bright spark for the Springboks as they suffered their heaviest defeat of the year at Mount Smart Stadium.

A slow, error-strewn start by the world champions saw them trail 17-0 after as many minutes and while the Bomb Squad helped them close the gap to eight, the hosts closed out the game with two fourth-quarter tries to retain the Freedom Cup and put one hand on the Rugby Championship silverware.

12: 22-21 win over Argentina in Johannesburg, 29 July

It was a farewell and Rugby Championship finale to forget for the men in green and gold. Ellis Park was half-full, the team’s new World Cup anthem and the first performance thereof by Mgarimbe during the halftime break were widely panned and the Boks’ performance wasn’t much better.

The hosts scored three tries through Man of the Match Eben Etzebeth, Damian de Allende and Manie Libbok, with the latter adding two conversions and a penalty goal.

11: 13-8 loss to Ireland in Saint-Denis – Rugby World Cup pool game, 23 September

The power of De Allende and the panache of Damian Willemse weren’t enough as the Boks succumbed to Ireland in their crunch World Cup Pool B clash.

The battle of the two top-ranked teams in the world delivered in awe-inspiring intensity, explosiveness and drama with each side scoring a try apiece, South Africa’s five-pointer coming via Cheslin Kolbe.

However, the defending champions missed 11 points off the tee and squandered a couple of try-scoring opportunities that ultimately cost them victory.

10: 24-13 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires, 5 August

The battle in Buenos Aires is remembered for the Boks debuting their peppermint alternate kit and Canan Moodie’s Man of the Match performance on the right wing.

Trailing 10-3 at halftime, the experimental South African side turned the tables in the second stanza with a double strike by Moodie and Makazole Mapimpi shortly after the interval setting up victory for the Webb Ellis Cup holders in their first of three World Cup warm-up matches.

9: 49-18 win over Tonga in Marseille – Rugby World Cup pool game, 1 October

Deon Fourie’s strong all-around effort and Handre Pollard’s solid return were the key positives as the Boks beat Tonga in their final World Cup pool game.

It wasn’t the best performance by the defending champions, who conceded three tries to the ‘Ikale Tahi, but they ultimately came away with the full five points they were looking for.

The most pleasing part of the game from a South African perspective was Fourie’s fine 80-minute effort in his first Test start at hooker. It was a full-circle situation for the man affectionately known as “Brannas” as he returned to the position, he’d made his bones in before his highly successful switch to flank a few years ago.

8: 76-0 win over Romania in Bordeaux – Rugby World Cup pool game, 17 September

Cobus Reinach and Mapimpi scored hat-tricks as the Springboks ran riot to blank Romania.

It was one-way traffic as the defending champions banked the fastest bonus point in World Cup history, needing just 11 minutes and 13 seconds, and scored 12 tries in all against the outclassed Oaks.

7: 43-12 win over Australia in Pretoria, 8 July

Variety was the spice of life as the Springboks started the Rugby Championship with a 43-12 walloping of the Wallabies in Pretoria.

It was pure domination by the world champions, who led 17-5 at halftime and upped the ante in the second to get their 2023 season off to a flyer in front of a sold-out crowd at Loftus Versfeld.

Kurt-Lee Arendse, the smallest man on the field, made the biggest impact on the scoreboard as he stormed over for a well-taken hat-trick in an electrifying Man of the Match performance.

6: 52-16 win over Wales in Cardiff, 19 August

Siya Kolisi turned the improbable into the incredible as the Boks walloped Wales in their penultimate World Cup warm-up match at Principality Stadium.

Kolisi had no right to be on the Cardiff turf. The serious knee injury he suffered while playing for the Sharks against Munster in a United Rugby Championship match and subsequent surgery had threatened to rule him out of the World Cup.

Through a combination of sheer will and what the Bok captain believes was divine intervention, he defied doctors’ expectations as he recovered in record time – 119 days to be exact – to return against the Welsh.

The world champions dominated the Cardiff clash, scoring four tries in each half as they put the diluted Dragons to the sword.

5: 18-3 win over Scotland in Marseille – Rugby World Cup pool game, 10 September

Fresh impetus from World Cup rookies like Arendse and proven veteran power saw the Springboks start their title defence with a solid win over Scotland.

South Africa controlled the potentially tricky Pool B clash from start to finish, remaining patient after leading just 6-3 at halftime.

The reward for their first-half dominance came in the second as they turned on the power, took their opportunities better to score two tries and shut out the Scots.

4: 16-15 win over England in Saint-Denis – Rugby World Cup semi-final, 21 October

Ox Nche and Pollard brought power and poise off the bench as the Boks pulled off a great escape to edge England in a nail-biting World Cup semi-final showdown.

On a rainy night at Stade de France where South Africa looked sluggish after their taxing triumph over France the previous week, the writing appeared to be on the wall for the defending champions.

However, the likes of Nche, Pollard and RG Snyman were superb off the bench and helped spearhead a smash-and-grab for the ages, with Pollard coolly slotting the match-winning penalty goal from 49 metres.

3: 35-7 win over New Zealand in London, 25 August

The Boks powered into the record books with a historic hammering of the All Blacks in their final World Cup warm-up match at Twickenham.

It was Bok brutality at its absolute best as the men in green and gold dominated their arch-rivals like never before, thanks in part to the introduction of the game-changing 7-1 forwards-backs split bench.

Commanding from the kick-off, they overwhelmed New Zealand with their ruthless aggression, which led to two yellow cards, a red card to Scott Barrett in the 39th minute and battered bodies in black across the park.

The 28-point margin was South Africa’s biggest-ever win over their old enemies and served as a massive statement two weeks out from the start of their world title defence in France.

2: 29-28 win over France in Saint-Denis – Rugby World Cup quarter-final, 15 October

It was a night of blood, sweat and tears of joy as the Boks pipped France in a World Cup quarter-final clash for the ages.

The frenetic first half produced no less than six tries, the most in a World Cup knockout match ever, and saw Les Bleus hold a slender 22-19 lead at the break.

Trailing by six deep into the second half, South Africa hit the front thanks to a try by Etzebeth that was converted by Pollard, who added a long-range penalty goal, with the defending champions holding on to knock the hosts out of the tournament.

1: 12-11 win over New Zealand in Saint-Denis – Rugby World Cup final, 28 October

Cometh the hour, cometh the Boks. South Africa held their nerve in the granddaddy of them all to achieve their destiny of securing back-to-back world championships in a drama-filled showdown against their arch-rivals.

The men in green and gold had to dig deep against a New Zealand team who refused to go away despite losing captain Sam Cane to a red card in the 28th minute.

The desire, physicality, experience and composure of the Boks, along with the unerring boot of Pollard, who scored all of the defending champions’ points, ultimately allowed South Africa to hang on to claim a record fourth world title and give coach Jacques Nienaber the perfect send-off on a wet and windy Parisian evening.

All 23 members of the Bok matchday squad played a role in the dramatic triumph, but Pieter-Steph du Toit played like a man possessed, producing a superhuman Man of the Match showing that saw him make no less than 28 ferocious tackles.

In what was a glorious evening, the pride of Mzanzi once again united the nation and provided hope and joy to 65 million South Africans back home.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

More in Rugby