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Boks braced for Fijian challenge, says Steenkamp

Updated: September 13, 2011, 01:12


WELLINGTON, New Zealand(AP) Defending world champion South Africa is prepared for a physical challenge from Fiji on Saturday and won't relax after an intense opening Rugby World Cup game against Wales

Springboks prop Guthro Steenkamp said South Africa needed to look no further than its quarterfinal against Fiji at the 2007 World Cup, which it won 37-20 after the match had been locked at 20-20, for a reminder of how dangerous the Melanesians could be.

"We're definitely not going to underestimate them. We do expect a tough challenge,'' the rugged prop said Tuesday. "We don't expect anything less from the Fijians, we know for them it's a World Cup as well.

"It's a big year for them as well, so we know we're going to have to bring our 'A' game as well to the game.''

Wales produced an intensely physical style in Sunday's Pool D opener, won 17-16 by South Africa, and Steenkamp said he expected something similar from Fiji.

"If you take back in 2007 when we played them, it was quite a physical game,'' he said. "They're very passionate guys, we know they'll bring everything to the game and we expect physicality from their side.''

Fiji captain Deacon Manu said his team would try to match the physicality of the South Africans while maintaining its natural flair.

"The Wales-South Africa game (on Sunday) was a hugely physical affair, and we know we have to step up physically if we want to match them on the scoreboard,'' he said. "One of our strengths is ball in hand, so we have to match that up with the physicality and get the right mix in our game if we want to challenge the South Africans.''

Asked what South Africa from learned from the 2007 World Cup encounter with Fiji, which almost derailed its drive to the world title, Steenkamp said "to play to the last minute.''

"We're definitely not going to underestimate them and we have a certain process we're very busy working on about where we want to go and what we want to achieve, and we'll definitely make sure that the things we work on in training this week we'll try to achieve,'' he said.

The 30-year-old Steenkamp admitted there had been a strong emotional element to the Springboks' opening game against Wales. It represented the end of a long buildup and an anxious wait for South Africa's World Cup defense to begin in earnest. But he did not expect an emotional letdown against Fiji.

"There was a massive buildup if you take everything outside: leaving South Africa, the farewell (that) we had in the buildup to the World Cup,'' he said.

"There was definitely a lot of excitement. I think after the first game's now in the back pocket, it's a relief; and we're focusing now on Fiji to see what we can do better and where we can improve on our game.''

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis said the lineout was one area in which South Africa was keen to improve.

"I definitely think we didn't use our lineout ball to the best of our abilities,'' he said. "It's been a strength of the Springboks since 2004 when most of the guys started playing, so that's an area we want to improve, in all aspects of lineout play.

"I think the defensive lineouts were great in the first half, but we slacked down in the second half and didn't keep the pressure on them.''

Du Plessis said the Springboks defense against Wales, and particularly its scramble defense, were strengths the world champions had deliberately honed.

"I think when we heard who was in our pool, one of the aspects we were looking at was definitely defense,'' he said. "When you play against Island players like Fiji and Samoa, you know they're great athletes and from one to 15 can outrun most of our guys. It's one of the things we've been working on very hard ... and I think it's been helping us at the moment.''

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