This was a game of breathtaking physicality, but South Africa merely rode it out and played smart rugby win this contest, cranking up the pressure in the second half. There were genuine moments of brilliance too, with both full-backs Willie Le Roux and Tim Nanai-Williams playing wonderful, evasive rugby, while big forwards like Schalk Burger and Eben Etzebeth slogged forward. A hat-trick for JP Pietersen will live long in his memory – particularly his long-range interception – and the lineout was a real weapon.
So when Schalk Brits rode a driving maul all the way to the line for South Africa’s fourth try, there was a clear sense of relief in the ground. After that the pressure was off and Pietersen scored his third with ease and Habana closed out the contest with a long-range effort. Six tries is a handsome return for a good day’s work against a team of Samoa’s strength.
This was calculated stuff from the Springboks and they will go into their game against Scotland with renewed energy.
Heads-up stuff from the big men – When Fourie du Preez is in this mood, rhythmically pushing South Africa on, they play well. But the Springboks weren’t just ploughing into the Samoans. After being hit so hard by TJ Ioane that he coughed up the ball – and nearly a lung too, by the look of the tackle – Schalk Burger decided the change tactic. He kept running at Ioane, who was thumping into contact all game, but drew him and passed. It was a simple change, but meant another runner could attack at a better angle outside Ioane’s shoulder. The link man is a role he performs well for the Stormers.
Samoan flair – Tim Nanai-Williams may not be the biggest of blokes – particularly in a team of monsters like Samoa – but he is darned evasive. His nimble running and keenness to offload sparked the Samoans. And when he did, others wanted to join in with offloads of their own. When South Africa followed suit in the second half, with some sweet play from Etzebeth, de Villiers and Le Roux a standout.
Brothers in arms – George Pisi came on in minute 66, joining his brothers Ken and Tusi to become the first trio of brothers to be on the field for a World Cup game. A proud day indeed.
Springboks lineouts – They looked secure on their ball, threatened the Samoans on theirs, and right at the start of the game they ploughed deep into Samoa’s territory thanks to a colossal driving maul. It was a part of their set-piece that functioned well. However…
Bok scrums – You cannot bank on the Boks scrum at the moment. They didn’t get embarrassed, but they never looked settled either. To be one of the key contenders in this World Cup, a stable platform is a minimum requirement. With the Test experience of some of their starters, they really should be solid.
Play-acting – Okay, so a few sly digs at the bottom of a ruck caused a minor moment of unpleasantness (handbags, we usually call it), but on the other side of it was the theatrical fall of Alesana Tuilagi, who flopped to the ground after being pulled back by JP Pietersen. He then got up and petulantly shoved his opposite man. He didn’t have to go down. If anything a man of his size going down looks silly anyway, but he could have got the penalty anyway.
Pitch invasions – A pumped-up Bok fan broke onto the pitch, came to the side of a ruck during play and was pulled away by Vavao Afemai just as Duane Vermeulen tried to grab him as well. The stewards hauled him off. It was an embarrassing moment.
23 – TJ Ioane trucked out for 23 tackles, dwarfing anyone else’s totals
75% – South Africa’s territory in the last ten minutes
4 – The number of lineout steals from South Africa
South Africa: Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (Pat Lambie 72), Damian de Allende (Jesse Kriel 48), Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Fourie du Preez (Ruan Pienaar 74); Tendai Mtawarira (Trevor Nyakane 62), Adriaan Strauss (Schalk Brits 67), Jannie du Plessis (Frans Malherbe 53), Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield (Lood de Jager 54), Francois Louw, Schalk Burger (Siya Kolisi 68), Duane Vermeulen.
Tries (6): Pietersen 3, Burger, Brits, Habana Pens: Pollard 4 Cons: Pollard, Lambie
Samoa: Tim Nanai-Williams; Ken Pisi, Paul Perez, Rey Lee-Lo, Alesana Tuilagi (George Pisi 66); Mike Stanley (Tusi Pisi 53), Kahn Fotuali’i (Vavao Afemai 77); Sakaria Taulafo (Viliamu Afatia 63), Motu Matu’u (Ole Avei 51), Census Johnston (Anthony Perenise 51), Teofilo Paulo, Iosefa Tekori (Faifili Levave 47), TJ Ioane, Jack Lam, Ofisa Treviranus (Vavae Tuilagi 61).
Pens: Stanley 2
Atttendance: 39, 526
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Man of the match: Handre Pollard