Former England coach and World Cup winner Sir Clive Woodward lauded South Africa for their victory in the final in Japan.
England were beaten 32-12 at International Stadium Yokohama and Woodward praised the winning South Africa team and also pointed to their dominance in the scrum.
Woodward, who guided England to 2003 World Cup success, told ITV: “No doubt, the better team won. At this level of rugby, if you can’t scrum properly, if you’re going to give five or six penalties at your scrum against a team like this, you’re always going to come second.
“England will be bitterly disappointed, to go down 32-12 in a World Cup final. They just couldn’t fire a shot because we couldn’t get first-phase ball.”
Former Springbok winger Bryan Habana hopes the World Cup victory will inspire a new generation of players to take up the game.
He said: “It is absolutely phenomenal. No one expected as commanding a victory. I think they won almost every big play, with their ability to do it up front, but some of the tries we saw were absolutely phenomenal.
“I’d love to see the scenes back home because this can be a catalyst. You feel for the English because they’ve been incredible throughout the whole tournament but for these boys this will mean so much more than rugby. It will be so much bigger than the sport.
“From a South African perspective, hopefully a new generation of blacks will have been inspired by a team that has carried the hopes and dreams of a nation and done it incredibly well.”
Jonny Wilkinson, England’s hero of 2003, says the Springboks had a huge emotional attachment to the game which helped snuff out Eddie Jones’ team.
“Last week the guys played a great semi-final, this week things aligned differently and England needed a different kind of performance and they just couldn’t quite find it,” Wilkinson said.
“I agree the set-piece was hugely important but what can’t be overestimated was the South Africa defence and their strength over the ball. They were stealing ball and their physical one-on-one collisions meant England just couldn’t get moving.
“I think they had a huge emotional attachment to the game in terms of what it meant for them. They’re a very different team to the one that beat the Welsh.”
Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio pointed to the loss of prop Kyle Sinckler in the opening stages as the turning point.
He said: “They turned the screw right from the minute Kyle Sinckler went off. We didn’t know how significant that was going to be but it’s proved to be very significant. The South African scrum has dominated throughout – five penalties from that – and they’ve just turned that screw.”
Dallaglio believes the England players were affected by nerves at the start of the game.
He said: “After the pyrotechnics of that wonderfully-executed game plan against the All Blacks, this performance is going to be hard to swallow. You felt the nerves played too big a part on the occasion. They looked very nervous in the opening five or 10 minutes, their heads looked a bit scrambled at times.
“But, on the positive side, they were the youngest ever team at 27 years and 60 days to take to the field for a World Cup final and many of these guys will be back for 2023. It took me six years to win a World Cup and it’s going to take these guys a little bit longer than four to do the same.”
Former Ireland captain and British Lions centre Brian O’Driscoll paid tribute to the achievement of coach Rassie Eramus in turning around the fortunes of the South Africa team.
“What we saw in the semi-final was nothing compared to what we saw today,” O’Driscoll said.
“I thought they played with a lot of ambition, particularly throughout the first half.
“Their whole performance was absolutely super solid. It’s quite amazing where this team has come in the last couple of years since Rassie has come in.
“Plenty of people wouldn’t have given them a shot tonight but they’ve proven a huge number of people wrong.”
England fly-half George Ford refused to blame his forwards for the defeat.
“You always want to get on the front foot but I can’t fault the lads up front, they’ve been unbelievable all tournament,” said Ford.
“South Africa just got one over on us today and we have to take it on the chin.
“It’s tough when they get a bit of a lead like that, you’re having to chase the game. They executed their game plan brilliantly.
“We were massively inaccurate in the first half when we had the ball. We couldn’t build any pressure. South Africa got us into that game which they’re very good at. “
South Africa scrum-half Faf De Klerk said: “It’s mixed emotions but obviously I’m unbelievably happy, so glad we can do it for the country and for ourselves. It means a lot to us.”
The Sale Sharks player said his team did not change their game plan from the semi-final, explaining: “We just exploited them out wide a bit. We’ve got great wingers and great outside backs and in the second half we just said our backline must take their backline on and they came through.
“And once again a massive performance from our boys up front. They gave me great ball and they give the backs so much time on attack.”