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Friday 30/9/2011 – South Africa vs Samoa

 

This was an important match for both teams in terms of staying in the RWC. South Africa was on 14 log points and Samoa on 10.

 

The implications were that Samoa would be out of the tournament if they lose. To stay in the tournament they needed to win with a bonus point (4 tries) or by more than 7 points. Essentially they needed to get 5 log points and make sure South Africa got none.

 

It was the last Pool match for both teams and therefore an absolute must win situation for Samoa. South Africa was in a situation that they could win the Pool if they beat Samoa; could come second if they lose by less than 7 points or exit the tournament if Samoa beat them with a bonus point.

 

South African team

 

Lock Victor Matfield who recovered from a hamstring injury against Fiji was selected to captain South Africa. This was one of seven changes to the side that played against Namibia.

 

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers was relieved that, Bakkies Botha aside, the number of injuries was diminishing ahead of the match at the North Harbour Stadium in Albany.

 

''It's the first time since our first game we have the privilege to select the team from 29 fit players,'' De Villiers told reporters.

 

Despite their previous injury problems, the twice champions lead Pool D after three wins against Wales, Fiji and Namibia and only need one point from their final clash to earn a quarter-final berth.

 

Usual captain Smit was selected to begin the match from the bench as De Villiers had revealed earlier the week that hooker Bismark du Plessis was to make his first start of the tournament alongside his brother, prop Jannie.

 

Matfield said that despite Smit being named among the replacements, the influential hooker had still been directing the team.

 

''We're a group of senior players really working close together. The things off the field this week have been very much the same with Smitty (John Smit) giving his input,'' the towering lock told reporters.

 

''My role on the field is pretty much the same as it always is, making certain calls. I'll go out and play the same way.''

 

Powerful loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira joined the Du Plessis siblings in an all changed front row after taking the place of Gurthro Steenkamp, who was selected as a replacement.

 

Also returning to the side was influential flanker Heinrich Brussow in place of Willem Alberts.

 

Fourie du Preez regained his position at scrumhalf with the impressive Francois Hougaard starting from the bench alongside centre Jean de Villiers, who has recovered from a rib injury.

 

Morne Steyn continued as flyhalf after a superb performance against Namibia with Jaque Fourie and Frans Steyn returning as centres despite the availability of De Villiers.

 

Winger JP Pietersen was the final switch for the Springboks, replacing Gio Aplon who scored two tries against African neighbours Namibia.

 

South Africa has won all their previous six test matches against Samoa and was strong favourites to win the match. Samoa however had huge support in NZ and had the ‘underdog’ support in the media. Samoa won a pre-tournament test match against Australia and was running strong on confidence –with some big talking prior to the match – after an impressive performance against Wales in one of the earlier pool matches and a good win against Fiji. According to Matfield the Springboks was very wary of Samoa:

 

''If you play any of the island teams I think the set pieces are very important. If you give them too much ball they're very dangerous so that's one thing we're focusing on,'' he said.

 

''They're a brute side so it won't be easy but we're working hard to hopefully put them under pressure in the lineouts and in the scrums.''

 

Team:

 

Pat Lambie, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Frans Steyn, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Schalk Burger, Heinrich Brussow, Victor Matfield (capt), Danie Rossouw, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.

 

Bench: John Smit, Gurthro Steenkamp, CJ van der Linde, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Francois Hougaard, Jean de Villiers.

 

Samoa

 

Samoan stalwart Seilala Mapusua vowed his side will throw everything at the Springboks after winning the battle of the islands by beating Fiji to keep their World Cup quarterfinals hopes alive.

 

Samoa gained a crucial win over Fiji. Sadly the Polynesia spectacular didn't eventuate in front of 60,327 at Eden Park, continuing a trend at the 2011 tournament that has seen the island flair strangely stagnant.

 

The Samoans were delighted to get the victory against Fiji but admitted disappointment at not being able to get a bonus point which put them in a precarious position where they had to win with either 4 tries or more than 7 points against South Africa.

 

Mapusua said the intent had been to play more rugby against Fiji and felt that would be the only way Samoa could hope to beat the world champion Boks.

 

"I think we need to go all out and really move the ball around and try and get as far away from structure rugby as possible," he said of how Samoa could upset the Springboks.

 

"We know how strong South Africa are. They are very clinical at the set piece and also at building pressure. They have a goalkicker who will slot it from anywhere. We need to break it up a bit I think."

 

Samoa have exhibited a decent set piece themselves and used this to good effect against Fiji to the extent that South Africa expressed concern about the Samoan set-piece before the match. The return of blindside flanker Taiasina Tuifua also gave them more potency at the breakdowns.

 

With plenty of ball and Tusi Pisi back from injury to be in the driving seat at No 10, they were able to operate from the right areas of the paddock to frustrate Fiji.

 

They built up a 15-0 lead through Pisi's boot before halfback Kahn Fotuali'i and impressive No 8 George Stowers finally crossed for second-half tries to seal the win.

 

But there was still a feeling that Samoa had only fired off one barrel against Fiji. They know they will need to unload both against the Boks.

 

"Going into the Fiji game we discussed at length how we haven't really fired a shot at this World Cup. There has been a lot of hype about this team since we beat Australia and I don't think we have played to our full potential. Hopefully we can do that this week," said Mapusua, a former Highlanders midfield back who knows plenty about South African rugby.

 

Mapusua said the lead-up win against Australia two months ago remained the benchmark for this side and they would need something similar to survive beyond the final pool match against South Africa.

 

He made no excuses for the pragmatic approach against Fiji given what was at stake. After wingers Sailosi Tagicakibau and Alesana Tuilagi nailed tries in the first 10 minutes Samoa tightened their game plan.

 

"I think you are seeing what you might call the maturing of island teams. It wasn't quite the spectacle but it's a test match at the World Cup and everyone knew what was at stake. It was do or die for both teams.

 

"I think there was more emphasis on playing the percentages and building pressure and accumulating points, hoping it would open up later when Fiji tired."

 

"There's everything to play for. I think for us the quarterfinals come a week early and we will be throwing everything into it. Nothing is sewn up yet -- they did name this the pool of death and it's living up to that," Mapusua said.

 

Samoa team:

 

Paul Williams, David Lemi, Seilala Mapusua, Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu, Alesana Tuilagi, Tusi Pisi, Kahn Fotuali'i, George Stowers, Maurie Faasavalu, Taiasina Tuifua, Kane Thompson, Damniel Leo, Census Johnston, Mahonri Schwalger (c), Sakaria Taulafo.

 

Bench: Ole Avei, Anthony Perenise, Logovi'i Mulipola, Ofisa Treviranus, Filipo Lavea Levi, Junior Poluleuligaga, George Pisi.

 

The match

 

Highlights of the match can be seen by clicking here.

  

Some key moments in the game.

Morné Steyn look left: 1 minute 27 seconds:

5 on 4 overlap, momentum with us and Samoan defence not organised, Morné Steyn goes for a drop goal and misses. 25 meters out

 

Offload gone wrong: 5 minutes 28 seconds:

Fourie du Preez hits the gap and offloads to Habana inside the Samoan 22, Habana half collects but drops the ball, clear run in.

 

Hey, where did my support go: 12 minutes 57 seconds:

Samoa after a number of phases are penalised for holding on, support players too slow to get there and SA has two players on their feet. Samoa 3 meters from the try line.

 

Get out of there Jannie: 15 minutes:

Quick ball, need quick hands to get the ball wide after some phases and Jannie du Plessis is standing in midfield just outside the Samoan 22, knocks the ball on.

 

Quick ball Fourie, get it out: 36 minutes:

Counter attack ball Habana runs into the Samoan 22 about 15 meters out, quick ball secured, Fourie du Preez takes his time and takes two step before wanting to pass, ball gets knocked out of his hands, although I must say Lemi was never really onside, but Owens says it is fair.

 

Comedy of errors: 40 minutes 30 seconds.

Burger turns over ball at the ruck, gets hit before he can get the ball away, Fotuali’i picks up and runs, he gets the ball out to Mapausua on the 22, who flicks the ball without looking and hit Owens with the ball, time called first half over.

 

Overdone: 46 minutes 6 seconds:

Spies collect at the back of another dominating scrum, but goes straight into burger creating an obstruction. Penalty Samoa 5 meters from their goal line.

 

Ouch: 50 minutes 20 seconds:

Hougaard only on for 4 minutes gets a solid knee on the side of his head, gets up after a while looking seriously groggy. Jean de Villiers replaces him.

 

Missed penalty kick: 53 minutes:

Just after Samoa scored their try Morné Steyn misses a penalty from 30 meters out.

 

Thanks Nigel Owens: 56 minutes 20 seconds:

Lemi makes a clean break through the heavy traffic after an up an under is collected by Paul Williams, he runs 40 meters and is stopped just inside the SA 22, gets up again and is blown by Owens for not releasing. A little error there, hey Nige?

 

Try, no try? 60 minutes 20 seconds:

Bismarck du Plessis at the back of a maul goes over, and as the New Zealand commentators said, you know it is a try, but you can’t see it. Not awarded.

 

Another knock: 61 minutes

Steyn charges to the line 5 meters out ball is knocked back and Brussow fails to collect cleanly.

 

Butter fingers: 66 minutes:

Twice Samoa attack the line being stopped just short of the line until eventually the third time they knock the ball on.

 

Paul Williams: 69 minutes:

Williams pushes or slaps or hits Brussow in the face with the palm of his hand, Brussow falls down, red card.

 

What, you missed that forward pass? 69 minutes 49 seconds:

Owens stands on the ten meter line of Samoa, the Samoan player passes the ball from the ten meter line it goes clearly forward and Owens let’s it go, the ball come back from the next phase, John Smit according to the New Zealand commentators makes no attempt to catch the ball (which i am in total disagreement with), yellow card John Smit.

 

More butter fingers: 75 minutes:

SA on attack, Lambie goes through the half gap, 5 meters out and loses the ball in the tackle

 

SA didn’t concede one penalty closer than their 10 meter line, in fact most were in the Samoan half of the field. So their discipline on defence was brilliant.

 

They did very well in the forward exchanges until the last 20 minutes, Samoa managed to gain control then, but the game became scrappy and a free for all with many mistakes and counter attacks from both sides, just ending in another mistake and counter from the opposition.

 

SA needs to work on their umbrella defence, I don’t know if it was overconfidence, but they left the line in the second half almost every time, Australia will love them to do that, for there are holes wider than barn doors out there.

 

Our execution and technical errors cost us a number of opportunities and we will need to sharpen up on that.

 

Under pressure Morné Steyn reverts to type, he starts kicking the ball and doesn’t seem to care whether it is out or not, some accuracy in decision making is necessary.

There may also be some injury worries.

It was an abrasive match with lots of big hits, and off the ball stuff culminating into flaring tempers towards the end of the game. 

 

South Africa started well, taking an early lead of 13-0 after scoring a try and forcing some penalties.

 

 

Frans Steyn opened the scoring with a 65 meter + penalty.

 

Habana scored in the 8th minute of the match after an abrasive mid-field charge by Frans Steyn and some slick handling after quick recycle ball. 

 

 

These pictures show (above) Frans Steyn on the break; Habana scoring (bottom).

 

There was much talk before the game about the strength of the Samoan set piece but South Africa had Samoa totally baffled in the line-outs and scrums in the first half.

 

The South African defence was also aggressive and dominating at the breakdowns in the first 30 minutes of the game. This dominance saw Samoa totally perplexed in terms of what to do and penalties in their favour resulted in extended conferences between senior players as they did not want to run, line kick or scrum against the Springboks at those stages of the game. 

 

This picture show Samoa annihilated in the scrum. South Africa pushed them some meters back at most of the scrums in the first half.

 

Samoan scrumhalf getting tackled by Matfield.

 

Burger and Morné Steyn putting pressure on Alesana Tuilagi

 

Danie Rossouw wrestling against Taiasina Tuifua for the ball.

 

Samoa’s other problem in the first half was a tendency to try and run over the Springboks instead of into gaps.

 

Second half saw them with a different attacking strategy namely using blockers or obstructive runners around set piece and rucks to give flyhalf Tusi Pisi more space and time. Pisi used that space by running 45 degree angles into the gaps between the two Springbok centers drawing them together. He would go into the Springbok centers very upright pushing the tackler backwards (often pushing the two centers into each other or into the loose forwards on cross cover)  often also holding on to the Springbok defender before off-loading to his No12 scissoring against the traffic into the gap thus created.

 

A variation on the above was for No12 standing slightly deeper running a straighter line into the South African mid-field defence after receiving the ball from the lateral angling flyhalf. No12 will then off-load to the flyhalf looping around slipping into the gap left by Jaque Fourie rushing up in defence. They used this tactic specifically to exploit the umbrella defensive pattern of South Africa which essentially consists of Jaque Fourie rushing up to smother the opposing outside center. Samoa created their only try in this way when Pisi looped around to receive the ball from his No12 who have charged into Jean de Villiers (who have replaced an injured Frans Steyn). The ball went wide to Paul Williams who set-up a ruck near the South African goal line. They recycled quickly. Pisi picked-up and made another defender-drawing-short-lateral-burst before flipping the ball to No8 George Stowers coming on a straight and fast crashing running to score.

 

 

Samoa no.8 George Stowers drives over for a try underneath South Africa replacement Jean de Villiers.

 

The score was 13-5 after a failed conversion attempt and Samoa with nothing to lose and everything to gain started playing like a bunch of desperados.

 

Samoa flyhalf Tusi Pisi photographed while trying out some of the wild stuff they reverted to during this match.

 

Samoa also reverted to some off the ball sneaky tactics in an attempt to frustrate the Springboks into mistakes.

     

These sneaky tactics (as can be seen on the pictures below) included constant harassing and back talking to the referee, shoulder high tackles, pulling the South African off the ball at rucks by strangling them around the neck, pushing the South Africans faces into the ground after tackles, holding onto them at rucks and openly slapping them in the face. It was ugly but orchestrated in a manner that made it hard to nail them and the referee had little control over the situation.

 

Kahn Fotuali'i of Samoa breaks with the ball while a team mate keeps Schalk Burger out of the defensive line with an arm around the neck.

  

 

 

Samoa's Maurie Faasavalu and Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu got Frans Steyn around the neck.

 

Jaque Fourie getting lifted in the tackle by Kane Thompson.

 

One incident saw the Samoan hooker and captain Schwalger openly slapping Jannie du Plessis in the face at a ruck. When Du Plessis reacted he got pinned by the touch judge and was penalized and warned by the referee.

 

Jannie du Plessis retaliating after being slapped in the face by Samoa's Mahonri Schwalger.

 

Another incident which culminated in a red card saw Paul Williams holding onto Heinrich Brussow at a ruck with Brussow desperately trying to break his hold. Brussow in desperation shouted to take notice at the touch judge and Williams stood up and punched Brussow in the face with the palm of his hand. Brussow fell to the ground (some afterward stating that he took a Hollywood dive to milk a card) holding onto his face.

 

 

In the picture above Brussow gets pushed/palmed by Paul Williams.

 

Williams was send-off but things were soon equalised when John Smit received a yellow card for deliberately knocking a ball down. The yellow card did look like an overreaction by the referee who was struggling to keep composure.

 

It all added to the excitement of the desperate almost wild attacking style of play the Samoans reverted to and many felt afterwards that Samoa was unlucky to loose and that the referee cost them the match. One incident which in particular was highlighted to emphasize unfair treatment was when No14 David Lemi made a sniping line break and got penalised for not releasing the ball after he was tackled by Lambie. The feeling was that Lemi was within his right to get up and ran without releasing the ball because he was not held in the tackle.

 

The reality was that even though the penalty was wrong Lemi was immediately tackled by Fourie du Preez and the changes of that movement resulting in a try was pretty slim.

 

As a spectator I was pretty annoyed with the Springboks falling back on a maddening defensive mode.

 

The last couple of days in run-up to this test required extreme patience from South Africans in NZ. It took quite some maturity to stay relaxed and calm in the face of the overbearing arrogance and over confidence exhibited by the Samoans in NZ.

 

Listening to them you would have thought they were the world champions and a team that have beaten every other rugby team on the continent and not the Springboks so assured where they that they were going to win the match.

 

The Springboks with their defensive mode actually allowed Samoa to look far better than they really were.

 

The boks absolutely dominated set piece (scrums and lineouts) in the match but stopped playing after taking a 13-0 lead early in the first half. The fact that the Springboks scored no point in the second half was mostly the result of constantly kicking the ball away and never really trying to run with the ball.

 

My feeling was that the boks brain-trust had a brain fart half time when they came out in the second half with the wrong game tactics. I also felt that the leadership on the field was lacking. The key to this game was to play off set piece and to control the ball. Starter moves of set piece forced in the corners were the way to play it.

 

The high kicks were clearly not working with Paul Williams brilliant under the high ball so why persist with it.

 

Samoa fullback Paul Williams was outstanding under the high kicks. Here he goes for the ball with Brian Habana competing.  

 

The Springboks tried one starter move off set piece in the first half and it almost worked with Habana just missing the catch. I wondered why they didn’t try that more often instead of persisting with on kicking the ball away and losing the ball in the rucks as a result of static podding?

 

Fourie du Preez making a snipping break that almost led to a try. Habana could not hold onto a tricky off-load with an open tryline in front of him.

 

I believe the Springboks had the set piece dominance and striking power to beat these jokers by at least 30 points. The fact that they were too scared to play positive rugby probably a result of a fear to lose.

 

Most annoying was the fact that Samoa walked out of this match still with a chip on the shoulder and regarded by the media as the real winners because of their daring and enterprising display with ball in hand.

 

I understand the concepts of defence win rugby matches and why take risks if you can win without it but bloody hell what about the idea of playing to your true potential?

 

A week or so after the match I found the following remark in a newspaper article:

 

As Peter de Villiers explained, the Springboks were aware of the over robust play of the Samoans and decided to kick possession back at the Samoans after half time, so that the Springboks were no longer targets of the head high tackles. It was a ploy to keep the injury rate down.

 

Anyone with brains can see that this is exactly what the Springboks did. They were in no danger of losing the match because if they wished they could have gone back into the tight mauls, kept possession, forced penalties and scrums got the three pointers if their lead were threatened. They did just enough to win – in fact they did not even need to win anyway.

 

The Samoans played like desperados and were given possession purposely by the Boks, but could only score one try – off a knock-on. An actual try by the Boks was not given because of lack of evidence. Stop knocking the Springboks – their discipline had been good so far and they have played some real power rugby, which they can turn on in an instance. No one wants to admit it, but they are actually the team to beat.

 

This certainly put a different perspective on all this irksome whingeing by the Samoans and their supporters. I’ve lost count on the amount of times I heard how unlucky the Samoans was to lose out on being in the quarters. Let’s put it straight; they were not unlucky even in the slightest sense. They were never in a position to win the match against South Africa. Furthermore for them to get into the quarters they needed to win with 4 tries (bonus point) and the divide between them and four tries in the match was as sizable as the distance between North and South Pole.

 

This also put a different perspective on the Springbok tactics in the Samoa match as I was convinced that the Springbok management group had a brain fart and approached the second half with the wrong game strategy.

 

This match took another nasty turn when the Samoan midfielder Elioto Sapolu was suspend from all rugby after some twitter remarks about unfair treatment by the referee.

This article regarding Sad Sack Sapolu appeared in Rugby 365

Samoa’s controversial midfielder Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu may be facing a life ban from the game, but he refuses to go quietly.

Sapolu, who is to appear before a misconduct hearing next Saturday to face charges that he is in breach of the World Cup and International Rugby Board Code of Conduct in relation to comments made about referee Nigel Owens, has launched another tirade at the IRB on the social media network Twitter.

Having already called Owens a racist – as well as having accused World Cup officials of slavery, while dragging the Holocaust and Apartheid into his numerous rants, this time he blasted the IRB for not acknowledging his country’s worst natural disaster.

“Our dead not good enough” he said in a message sent Thursday, noting there was a minute’s silence before the United States’ World Cup game against Ireland on the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.

Sapolu, provisionally suspended from all rugby for calling Welsh referee Nigel Owen “racist”, criticised the lack of a memorial for Samoa when they played on the anniversary of a destructive tsunami which claimed 143 lives.

“Minute of silence for USA for 9/11, nothing for Samoa for tsunami. Both games played anniversary days. Our dead not good enough.”

However, an IRB spokesman told AFP on Thursday they had acknowledged the tsunami, saying: “As agreed with the Samoa Rugby Union, the date was respectfully commemorated with a public address immediately prior to kick-off and also the wearing of black armbands to remember those who tragically lost their lives.”

Sapolu has been in hot water with the IRB for his outbursts throughout the tournament, which began when he said his side was being exploited with a tough schedule which he likened to “slavery” and “the Holocaust”.

He escaped punishment then when Samoan officials apologised, but was suspended this week when he failed to appear at a disciplinary hearing over his outburst about Owens.

The criticism of the referee followed a 5-13 defeat by South Africa that ended Samoa’s involvement in the World Cup.

The Gloucester midfielder showed up at a reconvened hearing on Wednesday and the IRB agreed to his request to have proceedings rescheduled until October 15, but said his suspension would stand until then.

He was also told “to refrain from further comment on the case” but the directive did not appear to include remarks about other issues.

Samoa played South Africa on the anniversary of the September 29, 2009, tsunami which pounded into the Pacific island nation, killing 143 people, and also claiming 34 lives in American Samoa and nine in Tonga.

Sapolu told reporters before that game how the devastation had left an indelible mark on a tight-knit community.

“We think about that before every game. We think about that every day. That is part of our history,” he said.

  

Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu of Samoa is tackled by Tendai Mtawarira of the Springboks.

 

South Africa hooker Bismarck du Plessis on attack. Bismarck had another storming game.

 

South Africa flanker Schalk Burger trying to break through Samoa's defence. 

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