Tomorrow in Paris, rugby titans New Zealand and South Africa face off in a clash set to echo the era-defining final of 1995.
Both sides vie for their coveted fourth World Cup title, a feat never achieved in the history of the tournament.
For South Africa, the occasion holds deep historical and cultural resonance. The 1995 victory, marked by Nelson Mandela's symbolic presence and unity in the post-apartheid era, remains a poignant, vivid memory. Captain Siya Kolisi, the first black captain of the Springboks, carries the weight of his nation's history on his shoulders.
It’s an opportunity the Bokke almost missed, having come through their semi-final by a single point. Fighting back against an England side that had all but been written off before the game, the Springboks emptied their bench in the final third and put pressure on the English scrum to win a decisive last-minute penalty. You could hear a pin drop in the Stade de France as replacement fullback, Handre Pollard slotted the winning kick.
A southern hemisphere showdown is their prize, and defending champions, New Zealand bring their own legacy to the field. Boasting a squad brimming with experience and raw talent, the All Blacks are equally determined to etch their names deeper into rugby legend.
If Sam Whitelock steps onto the field during the match, the Kiwi second row will become the first player to participate in three World Cups. Elsewhere, brothers Scott, Jordie, and Beauden Barrett maintain their positions in the starting XV, continuing from the team that comfortably defeated Argentina in the semi-finals.
Whoever prevails in Paris, the curtain comes down on Aaron Smith’s international career; the All Black scrumhalf announced his intention to hang up his New Zealand jersey after the 2023 campaign. Tonight’s third and fourth-place playoff between England and Argentina will also be the last international rugby for Twickenham favourites Courtney Lawes and England men’s most capped player, Ben Youngs.
It’s an issue that’s close to our hearts here at Athlete Career Transition.
While the three will continue to play professional rugby, their decisions signal the start of their respective transitions away from sport – a journey that can be complex and challenging on many levels.
After years of training and elite competition, athletes can struggle to adapt to life when they leave the working cultures that define them. Many can feel they don’t have the right skills to succeed in traditional working environments as they strive to find new meaningful employment.
Champions for life
What many who transition don’t realise, is that their athletic careers give them an enviable professional pedigree. From discipline and determination, to organisation and team-management skills, former athletes possess an array of highly valued attributes which combine to make them stand-out employees in any field.
Like all retiring sportsmen and sportswomen, Smith, Lawes and Youngs will go through a maelstrom of emotions – negative and positive – as they wind down their athletic careers. On the other hand, they can feel huge pride with what they’ve achieved, and can go forwards with great optimism as they begin exciting new chapters in their lives.
Athlete Career Transition
At Athlete Career Transition, we specialise in helping former athletes as they transition from athletics into second careers.
We guide them, providing mentorship and the psychological support they need to find their feet post-sport.
We identify strengths and give development opportunities before placing candidates into new working roles in which they’ll thrive.
Click here to learn more, and enjoy a fantastic Rugby World Cup final 2023.