JP Pietersen scored a hat-trick as the Springboks beat Samoa 46-6 on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports from Villa Park in Birmingham.
Unrelentingly physical. Unapologetically direct. The Boks reverted to their traditional strengths and the move paid dividends.
Heyneke Meyer backed his senior players going into this must-win fixture. Meyer wanted the Boks to play smarter against Samoa. He said that Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield and several others were playing for their places. The Bok coach will be pleased following a dominant yet controlled performance.
The Boks showed their hand as early as the opening minute. Pietersen and Eben Etzebeth, two of the Boks’ best players on the day, clattered into the Samoans in that very first play. The Pacific Islanders impeded, and De Villiers barely hesitated in pointing to the posts.
The Boks controlled the game from there. Matfield was dominant at the lineout, be it on attack or defence. South Africa targeted the Samoans at the maul. Matfield disrupted the Pacific Islanders’ feed regularly with a well timed leap.
The Boks won the physical battle at the gainline and breakdown. Duane Vermeulen’s return to the starting side made a marked difference in these departments. Schalk Burger was everywhere. Etzebeth was a beast in contact and Lood de Jager just as dominant when coming off the bench in the second stanza.
What was most impressive about the Boks’ performance was the degree of control they displayed. They pressured the Samoans at the point of contact, but rarely overstepped the mark. The Pacific Islanders lost their discipline, and the Boks were able to extend their lead through the cool goal-kicking of Handré Pollard.
Fourie du Preez controlled play well from the base of the ruck, and was a factor in the territorial battle. Pollard was outstanding in terms of game management and attacking play. Before the match, Meyer said that Pollard needed to show why he deserved the No 10 jersey. The 21-year-old did that and more on Saturday.
The Boks took some time to find their attacking groove. Pietersen’s first try was the product of a good read on defence. The right wing picked off a flat pass by Samoa flyhalf Mike Stanley and ran 60m to score. That try gave the South Africans some momentum.
The Boks went to the break with a 17-6 lead. They continued to apply the pressure on the Samoa pack. When they won the penalty in the 46th minute, they turned down the shot at goal. The decision proved correct, as they controlled the ball from the lineout and set up Pietersen for his second try in the right-hand corner.
This was the decisive blow. Samoa were losing the battle at the collisions. They were suddenly forced to chase the game, to take chances and play unstructured rugby. This only played into the Boks’ hands.
Another well directed maul culminated in a try for Schalk Brits. This secured the bonus-point try for the Boks, and really allowed them to cut loose in the dying stages.
The Boks will take heart from this performance. The win was built on a dominant forward display as well as some excellent tactical kicking. The scything attacking rugby came later, when Samoa were well beaten and attempting to play catch up.
If the Boks build on this performance next week, they will be too strong for Scotland in Newcastle. They now have a great chance of winning that game, the subsequent clash against USA, and ultimately topping Pool B.
Springboks – Tries: JP Pietersen (3), Schalk Burger, Schalk Brits, Bryan Habana. Conversion: Handré Pollard, Pat Lambie. Penalties: Pollard (4).
Samoa – Penalties: Mike Stanley (2).
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jesse Kriel.
Samoa – 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Paul Perez, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Mike Stanley, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Ofisa Treviranus (c), 7 Jack Lam, 6 TJ Ioane, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Zak Taulafo.
Subs: 16 Ole Avei, 17 Viliami Afatia, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Vavae Tuilagi, 21 Vavao Afemai, 22 Tusi Pisi, 23 George Pisi.
Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images