Rugby World Cup 2011
Schalk rooting for Azzurri
Schalk Burger (Gallo Images)
Auckland - Schalk Burger admits he'll be cheering for an Italian victory over Ireland this weekend but South Africa are gearing for another showdown with the Wallabies in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
The Springbok world champions clinched top spot in Pool D with a bone-crunching 13-5 win over Samoa at North Harbour on Friday to finish eight points clear in their 'Pool of Death' and will face the runners-up of Pool C in Wellington next Sunday.
Ireland take a three-point lead into this weekend's final group match, but they could be out of the tournament if they lose to Six Nations rivals Italy in Dunedin on Sunday and Australia, as expected, seal a bonus-point win over win-less Russia in Nelson later Saturday.
But the Springboks believe they will be tackling the Wallabies, who have won their last three encounters with the Boks on the way to being crowned Tri-Nations champions for the first time in a decade prior to the World Cup.
"We'll be rooting for the Italians to beat Ireland," said Burger, the official man-of-the-match against Samoa. "But, either way, we have come through a tough pool, which has us well prepared."
Lineout general Victor Matfield, captain for the night against the Samoans, said South Africa were ready for a sudden-death game against the Wallabies, if it eventuated.
"Australia will be a completely different challenge. I think they play a different style to Samoa, they play different lines, it's very difficult to defend against Australia," he said.
"So we'll have to be on our game but we believe in our (defensive) systems and we'll work hard and we'll be ready for them."
South Africa took a buffeting in their hard-fought scrap with Samoa, their second close match of the tournament after prevailing 17-16 over Wales in their opening game in Wellington on September 11.
"Two high scoring games against Namibia and Fiji, two close games against Wales and Samoa. We have to focus on Australia now, they are a whole different game," number eight Pierre Spies said.
"We came here to win this game. It was good preparation for the (possible quarter-final) game against Australia. It was definitely a good dress rehearsal."
South Africa had a desperate struggle to keep out Samoa after going into the second half leading 13-0.
The Boks failed to add another point and were under siege being forced into making 152 tackles to Samoa's 77 and having to scramble in defence in the face of 27 missed tackles.
"We are always scared playing against Samoa. They are a great side," said hooker Bismarck du Plessis.
"Playing a match like this though is definitely the sort of game we want before we go through to the quarter-finals."
The Springboks are likely to lose in-form centre Frans Steyn for the rest of the tournament with a shoulder injury, while wingers Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen took knocks which have to be fully assessed this week.