New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins praised the All Blacks for their resilience and determination despite seeing Ian Foster’s side slip to a narrow defeat against South Africa in the final of the Rugby World Cup in Paris on Saturday.
New Zealand lost 12-11 as the South Africans defended the title they won in Japan four years ago, with the All Blacks forced to play much of the game with 14 players following Sam Cane’s red card.
“Well done again to all those who made these efforts possible, from the players and coaching staff to their friends and whanau (extended family) who have supported them all the way,” Hipkins said.
“It’s been incredible to see the team bounce back from that tough opening game against France and set the tournament alight.
“New Zealand looks forward to welcoming the team home and celebrating their achievements.”
The All Blacks reached the final to defy lowly pre-tournament expectations, after a first-ever home series loss to Ireland and defeats against South Africa and Argentina in the Rugby Championship last year.
New Zealand lost their tournament opener against hosts France but rallied to gain revenge over the Irish in the quarter-finals and defeat Argentina in the last four to set up the meeting with the South Africans.
The Springboks proved to be a challenge too far, however.
“On behalf of New Zealand, I’d like to congratulate coach Ian Foster, captain Sam Cane and the rest of the team for their achievements,” said sports minister Grant Robertson.
“It’s been an incredible seven weeks of rugby and the team has done New Zealand proud.
“The All Blacks ethos is all about the team and this was truly a full-team effort throughout the tournament, with tries scored by 21 different players across the seven games.”