The South African team was not in a good mental space after a struggling performance against Wales in their RWC 2011 opener.
It sounded like South Africa was very much playing themselves, as much as Fiji, in the lead-up to the clash against Fiji at Wellington Regional Stadium.
The Springboks conceded that they'd been poor in the Rugby World Cup opener and probably lucky to get the win. They didn't treasure possession, failed to stay on task and only snuck home against Wales because their tackling had at least been sound.
''You can't defend for such large periods of time against quality teams,'' Springboks forwards coach Gary Gold said.
''No matter what your system is and how well-coached our team are defensively and what our mindset is, at the end of the day, the dam wall is going to break eventually if you allow the opposition to play as much rugby as we allowed Wales to play.
''There were [also] certain areas of the field where we could've held onto the ball more and we could've been more precise with our kicking game, for example. I think we could've kicked the ball out and contested the lineout, as opposed to just kicking it downfield or aimlessly kicking it away.
''That real jealousy over possession, that's something we've spoken about. We really do need to look after that rugby ball a lot more.''
The Springboks was especially concerned about the physical challenge they expected from Fiji.
''They are certainly going to present a physical threat, but they're also going to pose a slightly different threat to us [than Wales] in terms of their pace out wide,'' continued Gold.
''They're going to give the ball air, they're going to try and move us around quite a lot and to try and beat us on the outside. The best way [to combat that] is to try and deny them as much possession as possible.''
Fiji captain, Deacon Manu, on the other hand was brimming with optimism about his team's chances of causing an upset.
''One of our strengths, as the Flying Fijians, is to keep the ball in hand and look to play rugby, really,'' Manu said.
''That's not going to change regardless of our opposition and the size of them. We're still looking to play and express ourselves in the way we play.
But we've got to make sure, as a forward pack, that we stand up and match them physically, mentally and tactically if we want to compete with them on the scoreboard.''
Multiple injuries to key players made things worse in the Springbok camp. Backs Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers and Butch James were all crocked, while Johann Muller joined Victor Matfield among the ranks of injured locks a day before the match.
Muller had been scratched from the reserve bench, with starting lock Bakkies Botha only half fit himself.
Fiji coach Sam Domoni was if not arrogant then at the very least over confident about his teams changes ahead of his team's Pool D clash with the Springboks at Wellington Regional Stadium.
Articulate and abrasive, Domoni's was determined to remind people that they are in the RWC tournament and that they rate themselves.
''We respect the Springboks, they are the current world champions,'' Domoni began.
''They did very well the other night against Wales. It was a hard game, even though it was a one-point difference, with the hype, the [long] preparation and the expectations of the nation.
''We respect them to the highest regard [but] that doesn't mean to limit our expectation of what we're capable of executing on Saturday. We've seen a few things [in the Springboks' game] that we can maximise, in terms of our performance.''
Asked if Wales' bold showing, in Sunday's 17-16 loss to South Africa, provided any pointers for Fiji, Domoni was genuinely offended.
''We certainly wouldn't approach it [tomorrow's match] from the Welsh direction. We'll approach it from our point of view,'' he said.
''So we've seen a few things there. There's a few weaknesses we can expose and we've worked on that this week.
''It was a blessing to play Namibia [first up]. It gave us something to work on.
''That doesn't mean we were perfect. We had a number of weaknesses we have to polish but that has been accomplished this week.''
Wing Vereniki Goneva scored four tries in last Saturday's 49-25 win over Namibia. While not as bullish as his coach, Goneva was disappointed to hear yesterday that he would not be marking South Africa's Bryan Habana this weekend.
Not because he wanted an autograph, or to swap jerseys. More because performing well against an established star might make him more appealing to clubs beyond the French second division he plies his trade in.
There was some concerns in the South African media about team selections with Frans Steyn being selected on inside centre.
Paul Treu the South African seven's coach however had some interesting perspectives, which proved to be very accurate, about team selections.
Cape Town - Springbok Sevens coach Paul Treu believes the Boks picked precisely the right team to take on Fiji in their second Word Cup clash.
The Fijians are renowned for their running capabilities and thrive in a loose and unstructured environment. Therefore, it is vital that the Boks stick to their more structured game plan.
And Treu believes Bok coach Peter de Villiers made the right selections for the game plan they need to employ against the islanders.
"I think the Springbok team picked for this game is spot on. We don't want the game to be played beyond the outside centre, because between our forward pack and a physical inside centre like Frans Steyn, the Fijians won't be able to do what they want," Treu told Die Burger newspaper.
"They even struggled against Namibia in the tight phases. They enjoy space and are capable of scoring tries within two phases.
"If we put them under pressure in the tight phases and in the first channel in the backline, their attacking structures will disintegrate. Once the Fijians get frustrated, their discipline lets them down and that's why Morné Steyn's boot could play such a big role in the match."
He also reiterated that the Boks' strong points could be utilised to exploit the Fijian weaknesses. They are poor at scrum time, lineouts, kickoffs and under the high ball - all areas where the Boks excelled in against the Welsh. "That's where we could determine the tempo of the game and make it much slower than what they would like."
De Villiers has come under fire in some quarters for not giving dangerous attackers like Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh a chance. But Treu believes it was the right decision not to start with them against Fiji.
"Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh will provide the X-factor against more structured teams. You shouldn't try and beat a team with the same kind of game that it employs. Therefore, against Fiji, you pick a guy like Frans Steyn to dominate them physically," said Treu.
15 Pat Lambie, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie Du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Danie Rossouw 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie Du Plessis, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Substitutes: 16 Bismarck du Plessis 17 Tendai Mtawarira 18 Johann Muller 19 Willem Alberts 20 Fancois Hougaard 21 Ruan Pienaar 22 Juan de Jongh
15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Gaby Lovobalavu, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Waisea Sedre Luveniyali, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Sakiusa Matadigo, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Dominiko Maiwiriwiri Waqaniburotu, 5 Wame Lewaravu, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Deacon Manu (captain), 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Campese Ma'afu
Substitutes: 16 Telemaitoga Dautu Tuapati, 17 Waisea Nailago, 18 Netani Edward Talei, 19 Sisa Koyamaibole, 20 Vitori Tomu Buatava, 21 Nicky Little, 22 Gaby Lovobalavu
New Paper report on the Fiji / South African clash
South Africa have powered to a comfortable 49-3 win over Fiji in Wellington.
The defending Rugby World Cup champion Springboks were thoroughly professional in beating their limited Pool D opponents by six tries to none.
Neither their winning performance, nor the match, soared to great heights following an opening few minutes which was full of adventure.
No surprise in that, from a Fijian perspective. But it was heartening the see the way the Springboks got into the spirit of giving the ball air.
It wasn't quite what they'd advertised during the week, when they hinted that stodgy, methodical rugby was probably the best way to blunt the Fijian challenge. There was still plenty of brute force about their play but, thanks to having the carefree Frans Steyn at second five-eighth, a number of wide passes were thrown too.
The other feature of his play is a prodigious boot, which he used to good effect in giving the match its first points. Despite being seven metres inside his own half, Steyn's penalty attempt sailed well over the crossbar to give the Springboks a 3-0 lead.
A rousing period of Fijian play saw Seremaia Bai level the scores in the 20th minute. Fiji's direct running was causing South Africa problems and there sounded like there were high hopes among the 30,000-strong crowd that an upset might be possible.
At least for about six minutes.
That was when giant South African loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp took advantage of dazed opposite Deacon Manu trying to hide in the Fijian defensive line. Steenkamp steamrolled him, and a couple of late-arriving players, in bullocking his way over for a deserved try.
First five-eighth Morne Steyn, who missed three shots at goal in the first half, converted from the left touchline.
Centre Jaque Fourie went over in the same corner as Steenkamp soon after. Two additional Morne Steyn penalties gave a halftime score of 21-3 to the world champions.
As he'd done in the first half, Frans Steyn opened the scoring in the second, dotting down for a try in the right-hand corner following a strong run by lock Danie Rossouw. Morne Styen added the conversion and a rout looked on the cards.
Instead, the match meandered, as they're wont to do once the coaches start emptying their benches. Bismarck du Plessis got the biggest cheer of all of them, when he replaced captain John Smit at hooker.
Without labouring the point too much, South Africa's hooking solution remains an unsatisfactory one. Given all he's done for South Africa, and the game, Smit deserves better than being hooked after 50 minutes of every match.
Equally, cameo appearances aren't the best use of du Plessis' obvious talent.
In terms of the actual match, the South African points kept coming but more in a trickle, than the expected torrent. Morne Steyn added a converted 63rd minute try to his personal haul, before replacement prop Tendai Mtawarira scored his second test try seven minutes later.
Ad Feedback Lock, and man of the match, Danie Rossouw, scored the last of their tries six minutes from fulltime.
The Springboks margin of victory was certainly more flattering than the one-point win over Wales six nights ago. But while they showed commendable enterprise against Fiji, South Africa didn't leave you with the lingering impression that you were watching a team about the win back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles.
South Africa 49 (Gurthro Steenkamp, Jaque Fourie, Frans Steyn, Morne Steyn, Tendai Mtawarira, Danie Rossouw tries; Morne Steyn 5 con 2 pen, Frans Steyn pen) Fiji 3 (Seremaia Bai pen). HT: 21-3.
Guthro Steenkamp scored the Sprinboks first try in this match.
Jaque Forie scored the second try
Frans Steyn played on No12 due to injury to Jean de Villiers and had an outstanding game. He impressed with his defence, his running lines as well as with his distribution as the ball went to the wings for the firts time in a long time.
Frans Steyn scored one of the Springboks tries after an clever and inspiration of the moment short 'wiper' kick by Hendrich Brussow (see picture below).
Hendrich Brussow made Frans Steyn's try with a clever little stab through when he found himself on outside centre after a quick ball recycle. With defenders in the way and unable to pass the ball too Steyn he stabbed the ball through just to get reprimmanded afterwards by team management because Springbok forwards are not allowed to kick the ball.
Morné Steyn in the act of scoring his try.
Frans Steyn presence on No12 made a big differnce on defence. Here are he and Morné Steyn busy tackling one of the bigand dangerous Fiji players.
Schalk Burger was a colossus on defence and did his part in carrying the ball up.
Pierre Spies on the charge. Spies had an average day and was pretty quiet apart from one or two runs with the ball.
Patrtrick Lambie played in his first RWC game but was well marked and had a average game by his own standards.
There was much talk before the game about Fiji's ability to score tries from any place on the field. Fiji started with a hiss and a roar and ran the ball at South Africa recyycling phase after phase but the South African defence held. In the end Fiji could noteven score one try. Here Leone Nakawara are getting tackled by Frans Steyn and Pierre Spies with man of the match Danie Rossouw in close attendence.
Some personal perspectives after the match
Well this was much better. The Springboks was innovative and clearly made some adjustments to how they play the game. Probably because of the change in game plan most of the players played well. A few played exceptionally well like Frans Steyn, Danie Rossouw, Schalk Burger, Brussow, Guthro and Bismarck when he came on.
Danie ‘Pakslae’ Rossouw was outstanding in everything he did and maintained a high workrate on defence and on attack. Out wide he showed some deft touches, good decision making and a surprising turn of speed.
The most pleasing aspect of the whole match the fact that they kept the ball in hand.
For the first time in a long time the ball was actually spread to the wing. It was however the manner in which they did it that was most impressive, for me. There were decoy runners and constant variation between taking it wide and attacking channels 1 and 2. Danie Rossouw in particular came charging into those channels with fearless abundance but it was the way in which they altered between attacking channels 1 and 2 and taking it wide that had the Fijians totally perplexed.
During the latter stages of the match the gaps opened up for our backline players in the inside channels notably the break that Morné Steyn made because the Fijians didn’t know where to defend any more.
Strategically there were about 9 major changes I would detect:
1. The chargers into channels 1 and 2 came from depth and with speed but most importantly they ran into space and did not try and run over the defenders.
2. The support runners were supporting from depth as compared to being flat or lateral with the ball carrier. The consequence of this that we could off-load better and that the support at the breakdowns were quicker in line with the ‘gate’ and therefore more effective.
3. We kept the ball in hand and stayed upright as we hit contact using off-loads to supporting runners sitting deep allowing us to move the ball away from the contact area. This is a major shift away from trying to smash through defenders.
4. We counter rucked at the breakdowns with aggression in the golden first two seconds after the rucked formed.
5. We had numbers at the ruck entering with low body positions and with speed.
6. We spread the ball to the wings using decoy runners.
7. We used the maul as a decoy for some other planned starter moves at the back of the lineout. The fact that we actually had starter moves is a big step forward.
8. We tackled the big guys around the ankles and avoided going into a chest tussle with them for the ball. Hitting them on the knees took them down and made it hard for them to offload.
9. We didn’t go into defensive mode after we took the lead like we did against Wales but kept the ball alive and actually ran with the damn thing.
The Springboks always had good backline players. The only reason why we don’t run the ball is because it was never really necessary due to the fact that we could dominate most teams upfront.
There is risk in running with the ball and why take the risk if you can win matches playing 10-man rugby.
However, the new rule interpretation has changed the ball game and in the modern game it is the team that keep the ball in hand that win matches.
Our biggest problem has always been that we lost the ball once we go to ground with it. This new approach of staying upright and shifting the ball away from the contact point with off-loads to a supportive runners sitting deep and not lateral is therefore a brilliant adjustment which suddenly allow us to play the expansive game.
A last word on Frans Steyn. This guy was a revelation on 12 and maybe it is on instruction but he was the man that got the ball wide with outstanding distribution.
I have been complaining about or number twelve’s in particular Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh’s inability to get the ball wide on previous posts. Frans Steyn was therefore a breath of fresh air in this regard but so effective in doing that because of the new way in which the boks approached the game.
The off-loads at the collisions gave our backline more space allowing us to take the ball wide.