South Africa vs Samoa | Saturday 22 June | Loftus Versveld | 17:15
The Incoming Series wraps up in the capital this weekend with the mighty Samoans having earned their chance to take on the resilient Springboks in the competition’s finale, brushing aside Scotland and Italy in the first two rounds. The Samoans have grown into a formidable force in rugby union over the last few seasons, and are now sitting comfortably ahead of Italy, Scotland, Argentina and Ireland in the IRB rankings. They are less than a point behind this year’s Six Nations champions, who occupy sixth spot. They came into this once-off quadrangular tournament having never defeated two of their three opponents, and now with Scotland ticked off their bucket list they will looking to finish the tournament on a high by adding a victory over the South Africans to their bragging rights.
The Springboks started off their 2013 season with an impressive victory over the Azzurri in Durban. A victory that gave a false impression that Heyneke Meyer had ironed out all the problems that prevented the Springboks from reaching any great heights during his first year at the helm. Last week an understandably cocky Springbok side were quickly humbled by a young and inexperienced Scottish outfit that played with such passion and determination that I couldn’t help but share their disappointment when their efforts went unrewarded. The siren sounded with the Springboks comfortably, albeit undeservedly, in the lead. This weekend’s clash with the Samoans will be the last game for the Springboks before the merciless Rugby Championship kick off in August. The result in Pretoria this Saturday will undoubtedly set the tone for the Springbok’s 2013 campaign.
To Win (80mins)
South Africa 1/11
South Africa (-15.5) 9/10
Samoa (+15.5) 9/10
Should Springbok captain Jean de Villiers pass his fitness test on Friday, South Africa will field an unchanged starting line-up for their final game of the Incoming Series, meaning Heyneke Meyer has failed to use this tournament to try out as many backline combinations as he could before heading into the Rugby Championships later this year. If de Villiers is not cleared to play, then hooker Adriaan Strauss will take over the captaincy, making him the 55th person to captain a Springbok test side, while Bryan Habana will assume the vice-captaincy. Francois Louw returns this week after missing out on last week’s action due to his wedding. Fellow loose-forward Willem Alberts has been conditionally named to start, his inclusion dependent on him passing a fitness test on Friday. If Alberts is not given the green light, Siya Kolisi will take his place and Marcell Coetzee will provide cover on the bench. In the only other change to the run on side, Flip van der Merwe will start at lock in place of Juandre Kruger.
No details available yet regarding a finalised team list for the Samoans but the Springboks will have to work hard to minimise flyhalf Tusi Pisi’s influence in the game if they want to avoid the humiliation the Italians suffered last week. Samoa ran in an impressive five tries last week, one of them through evasive Samoan captain Paul Williams. His partner in the midfield, Sale centre Johnny Leota, also dotted down against the Azzurri, and this dangerous midfield combo will be keeping the South African defence on its toes throughout the match.
VERDICT: Samoa (+15.5) 9/10
The Samoans have evolved from their one dimensional game from years back that prevented them from ever posing a real threat to the bigger unions. The days where one simply had to wait for the beefy nation to tire out before the rain of tries began are over. They are now tactically efficient, with an ever-improving ability to read the game and adjust their play accordingly. Combine that with the speedy agility of their backs that have the build of front row forwards, and their forwards who have the finesse and pace of backline players, and you are only asking for trouble. The Springboks will need to prevent themselves getting too involved in the physical battle because it is one they will more than likely lose. They will be under pressure from the kickoff, but if they manage to keep their composure for the full 80 min they should manage to take it by about 7 points.
Think we've got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this is going to play out.