Springboks reach World Cup quarters after bruiser
Updated: September 30, 2011, 06:27
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) South Africa endured the bone-jarring and bruising clash they expected from Samoa to win 13-5 on Friday and advance their World Cup defense into the quarterfinals.
The Springboks' fourth win from four matches ensured they won Pool D, the toughest in the tournament, and primed them for a run at an unprecedented third Cup triumph.
The Samoans were virtually knocked out of quarterfinals contention, as they needed at least a point from the match in front of a crowd of 29,734, the biggest ever at North Harbour Stadium. That left Wales almost guaranteed of a berth in the last eight if it can take at least a point out of its match with Fiji on Sunday in Hamilton.
In a niggly match that became a thriller as Samoa rallied from a 13-0 halftime deficit, both teams finished a man short.
Samoa fullback Paul Williams was sent off in the 69th minute for slapping Heinrich Brussow in the face, and was followed a minute later by a yellow card to substitute hooker John Smit, for a deliberate knock-on.
Smit, whose 110th appearance kept him on top of the Boks' all-time caps list, had been on the field only two minutes. He still equaled Os du Randt's Springboks record of 16 World Cup matches.
"It was very tough,'' South Africa captain Victor Matfield said. "First half we played alright. Second half we went to sleep and the Samoans came out with a lot of heart. They kept the ball, they ran hard. Lucky our defense held them out.''
While Manu Samoa likely depart the World Cup, they left behind a reminder of their valiant run all over the bodies of the South Africans, who were battered in having to make 152 tackles, almost twice as many as the hard-charging Samoans.
The Springboks missed 27 tackles to the Samoans' 11, but their cover defense scrambled well to concede just the one try, to George Stowers. The South Africans also did well in conceding 10 penalties, but none within range of the posts.
"I wasn't disappointed,'' Samoa captain Mahonri Schwalger said. "I'm very proud of what my boys did out there tonight. They did it all for our people, for our country. You've got to make sure you take your opportunity when it comes. Obviously we didn't take all of our opportunities and we got punished for it.''
South Africa scored all of its points in the first 27 minutes, with a converted try to Bryan Habana and penalties from Morne Steyn and Frans Steyn.
The Boks made a brilliant start, with JP Pietersen immediately negating Samoa's kickoff by running the ball back to halfway and beginning an attack that surged all the way to Samoa's 22, just outside of which Morne Steyn had plenty of time to attempt a dropped goal but hit it right.
Moments later, Frans Steyn gave Samoa notice that they better not give away penalties within 60 meters of the posts by lining up one from 58 meters. It smashed into the posts and back into the field of play.
South Africa's ability to recycle ball quickly and spread the attack left and right was finally rewarded in the ninth minute when Bismarck du Plessis was in the backline to give Habana a small overlap on the left wing. Habana just had enough space from 20 meters out to beat opposite David Lemi into the corner. His 10th World Cup try leveled David Campese and Brian Lima for sixth in tournament history.
Morne Steyn converted from the left touchline for 7-0.
Making up for struggling to win its own lineout throw-ins with a solid defense, Samoa would have thought conceding a penalty in the attacking half wasn't threatening until Frans Steyn stepped up and just managed to hit it over the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Morne Steyn hit an easier penalty over from 38 meters for 13-0, and Frans Steyn had another shot from a mighty 62 meters, but it didn't quite have the distance.
The Boks continued to drain the tension by containing Samoa to the break. But Samoa brought the match back to life with Stowers' try in the 52nd. From scrum ball, Pisi doubled round and the ball was grounded twice, but Stowers charged onto a pass and dived in under three tacklers.
Pisi, a star all night, missed the easy conversion that would have given Samoa a point for losing within seven of the Boks.
The Boks then came closest to scoring from a lineout drive, but the try was unsighted, and Samoa lit up the last quarter with brilliant runs by backs David Lemi and Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, but always the last defender got a hand on them. In the 67th, Schwalger dropped the ball on the line, and it was Samoa's last real shot.
Springboks coach Peter de Villiers said he was happy his squad got through almost unscathed.
"You'll never find a team more physical in rugby. It was a great preparation going forward for us. Just glad to come through it,'' he said. "Our decision making was a bit shocking at times but other times it was spot on. We got the result, so I'm very, very happy.''
South Africa 13 (Bryan Habana try; Morne Steyn conversion, penalty; Frans Steyn penalty), Samoa 5 (George Stowers try) HT: 13-0.