Final to be ‘physical’

2013-06-22 00:00

TWO of the more physical teams in world rugby, South Africa and Samoa, will clash head-on in the final of the Incoming Series at Loftus Versfeld this evening.

And last night two Springboks battling with injury, centre and captain Jean de Villiers and flank Willem Alberts, were cleared to play.

The finalists have both beaten Italy and Scotland over the past fortnight with Samoa, now seventh in the world rankings, consistently more impressive than the second-placed Springboks.

The Springboks have a history of hard, painful victories against the South Sea islanders and veteran wing Bryan Habana believes their game against Samoa at the 2011 Rugby World Cup was the most physical of the tournament.

But the Samoan players, who play in either the European or Super Rugby competitions, have benefited from international exposure and they have added subtlety and tactical nous to their raw power.

Epitomising their muscular approach to the game is the 117 kg wing Alesana Tuilagi, who is built like a brick outhouse but runs like a three-quarter. The Italians and Scots can still feel the bruises and not only Habana, his opposite number, will have his hands full this evening.

De Villiers, at the pre-Test briefing yesterday, said they were expecting a physical contest.

“We as South Africans are proud of the way we play and we never take a step backwards when a game becomes hard.”

He said they would have to improve on their form at Nelspruit last Saturday.

“All our defences will be tested. They are big guys running at you and you have to stop that momentum. You have to make your tackles and you need to get over the advantage line when you’ve got the ball.”

The Samoans will also have taken note of how poorly the Springboks expressed themselves when the Scots, playing on both sides of the law, exposed their limitations at the breakdown while also carving holes in their midfield. They will also seek to place the Springboks under intense pressure with their robust approach to the breakdown, their heavy tackling and direct running.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has done what he can to beef up the Springbok pack, adding Alberts, passed fit yesterday, and lock Flip van der Merwe to the mix while the return of flank Francois Louw will improve their work at the breakdown.

The Samoans have traditionally lacked technique and cohesion in the set pieces and the Springboks are aiming to disrupt their primary possession and force them to play on the backfoot.

They will also look to flyhalf Morné Steyn, happily back on home turf, to turn the Samoans with the boot. But his tactical kicking will have to be accurate against the Samoans who are at their most dangerous when counter-attacking and running from broken play.

De Villiers is wary:

“The Samoans beat the Wallabies in Australia, and Wales in Cardiff, so you can never take them lightly. They are the most improved side in world rugby over the past couple of years.”

There was one late withdrawal yesterday with Irish referee John Lacey suffering a late injury and Frenchman Pascal Guazère, who was in charge of the Boks’ Test against Italy, will take over, a switch that left De Villiers with a smile on his face.

“We are happy with the way he handled our game against Italy,” De Villiers said.

The buoyant, confident Samoans will be out to make history this evening but the Boks’ organisation at forward, backed by the boot of Steyn, should see them home. Whatever the final scoreline, it will be a bumpy, bruising ride.


South Africa: 15. Willie le Roux, 14. Bryan Habana, 13. JJ Engelbrecht, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain) / Jan Serfontein, 11. Bjorn Basson, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Pierre Spies, 7. Willem Alberts / Siya Kolisi, 6. Francois Louw, 5. Flip van der Merwe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Adriaan Strauss, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Trevor Nyakane, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Juandre Kruger, 20. Siya Kolisi / Marcell Coetzee, 21. Piet van Zyl, 22. Pat Lambie, 23. Jan Serfontein / Juan de Jongh.

Samoa: 15-James So’oialo, 14-Alapati Leiua, 13-Paul Williams (captain), 12-John Leota, 11-Alesana Tuilagi, 10-Tusiata Pisi, 9-Jeremy Sua, 8-Taiasina Tuifua, 7-Jack Lam, 6-Ofisa Treviranus, 5-Daniel Leo, 4-Teofilo Paulo, 3-Census Johnston, 2-Wayne Ole Avei, 1-Sakaria Taulafo.

Replacements: 16-Ti’i Paulo, 17-Logovii Mulipola, 18-James Johnston, 19-Kane Thompson, 20-Junior Poluleuligaga, 21-Brando Vaaulu, 22-Seilala Mapusua, 23-Alafoti Faosiliva.

Referee: Pascal Guazère of France. Kick-off: 5.15 pm.

Curtain-raiser: Italy vs Scotland (third place).

Kick-off: 2.15 pm.

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