South Africa vs Samoa | Saturday 26 September | Villa Park, Birmingham | 16:45
Heyneke Meyer’s side will have been itching to get back on the field since the final whistle went at Brighton Community Stadium. Having been part of one of the most embarrassing debacles in the history of Springbok rugby, his players will be looking to prove a point this weekend.
The ‘Boks are going to have to acquire the full five point haul from this one in order to start their journey on the road to redemption. Standing in their way is a Samoan side who know they’re in with a shot of making the quarter-finals. Whilst the Samoans are yet to beat the South Africans, they have given them some worries in the past. The 2011 World Cup encounter between the two sides ended with the ‘Boks running out victors by a slender eight-point margin. With Pool B now wide open after Scotland beat Japan on Wednesday, there’s a massive incentive for both sides to put in a winning performance.
To Win (80mins)
South Africa 1/16
South Africa (-20.5) 9/10
Samoa (+20.5) 9/10
While Japan put in a fantastic performance against the ‘Boks last weekend, the South Africans need to acknowledge the role they played in the loss. Poor decision making and a laid back approach saw the Springboks don the role of chief architects of their own destruction. Heyneke Meyer has attempted to address the issues that lead to the upset defeat in training this week. The former Bulls mentor has told the media he plans to go back to basics for the rest of the campaign. This switch in tactics is likely to see the ‘Boks go for a territorial based game plan with kicks deep into the opponent’s half set to become the flavor of the month. While many will view this as backwards step toward the stone of South African rugby it could turn out to be the catalyst that’s see’s the ‘Boks make it deeper into the tournament.
Meyer has made eight changes and two positional switches for this weekend’s encounter. In the forward pack, Duane Vermeulen comes in at eighthman, with Schalk Burger shifting to the flank. They are joined in the loose trio by former Western Province flanker Francois Louw. There are two changes to the tight five with Adrian Strauss coming in at hooker for the out of form Bismarck du Plessis, while Eben Etzebeth comes in to partner Victor Matfield in the second row. In the backline, there’s a double change to the half-back pairing, with Fourie du Preez and Handre Pollard coming in for Ruan Pienaar and Pat Lambie. There’s also a switch in the centre pairing, with Jean de Villiers moving to outside centre to accommodate Damian de Allende who comes in at twelve. In terms of the back three, JP Pietersen will return to the starting XV in place of Lwazi Mvovo, whilst the mercurial talent that is Willie Le Roux will don the number fifteen jersey, taking over from Zane Kirchner. The ‘Boks have won all four of the World Cup encounters between the two sides and on average have scored 46.75 points per game.
|IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Fixtures|
While the Samoans fared a lot better at the Brighton Community Stadium than their opponents, head coach Steve Betham will have been disappointed to see his charges let a bonus point opportunity slip. The Samoans were dominant for large phases of the game but poor handling errors at crucial moments cost the Pacific Islanders a try scoring bonus point. Tim Nanai Williams, although culpable of a handling error or two, was Samoa’s best player last weekend. The ‘Boks will know how big a threat the diminutive utility back poses with the majority of the squad having played against Nanai-Williams in Super Rugby.
While Stephen Betham is yet to announce his squad it looks as though he will have a fully fit group to pick from, with none of his players picking up injuries against the United States. While Williams was the standout performer last weekend, Jack Lam was probably the most impressive forward. The flanker covered a huge amount of ground in their opener and was a menace at the breakdown. The Springbok loosies will have to ensure that they have Lam under wraps at ruck time, while the backs can ill afford to allow Nanai-Williams even an inch of space. The Samoans have averaged nine points per game in their previous World Cup encounters against the ‘Boks and have only crossed the ten-point threshold once.
VERDICT: South Africa (-20.5) 9/10
They may have looked like rank amateurs against Japan but there are some quality players in the Springbok camp. It’s a big margin but I can see this wounded ‘Bok side running the Samoans rampant.