Rugby World Cup 2011
Tsunami memories spur Samoa
Mahonri Schwalger (File)
Auckland - Samoa's World Cup showdown with defending champions South Africa on Friday will have added poignancy coming on the second anniversary of the Pacific nation's worst natural disaster.
A tsunami on September 29, 2009, triggered by three quakes in rapid succession measuring magnitude 7.8 to 8.1 unleashed waves that killed 143 people, also claiming 34 lives in American Samoa and nine in Tonga.
The Samoans, who must beat the world number two Springboks to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup, said they feel a deep sense of responsibility to win Friday's make-or-break match at North Harbour.
"It is such a part of our history. It will be with mixed emotions when we play," experienced centre Seilala Mapusua said on Thursday.
"Everyone on the team knows about it and we will talk about it at our jersey presentation tonight."
The Japanese-based back said the Samoan squad will be grappling to keep their emotions in check in trying to deal with the timing and significance of the pool game in Auckland, which has a sizeable Samoan population.
"It will be a tough job for our coaching staff and the senior players to help us keep our emotions in check," Mapusua said.
"The fear factor for us is what is at stake, the significance of the match.
We will have to focus on what is at hand."
Coach Titimaea Tafua said the revived memories of the great tsunami will spur his players to perform.
"It is really important to us. It is a good motivation for our players," he said.
"Another way of looking at it is, it's an opportunity to play one of the top teams in the world. It is very important for each one of the players to really have a chance to play the best in the world."
Captain and hooker Mahonri Schwalger said the second anniversary would drive the Samoan players.
"Of course, that is in the back of our minds. It is a big motivation for us to win the game for the people back home," Schwalger said.
Samoa have never beaten South Africa in six encounters, three of them coming at the World Cup.
They must break through and hope Fiji down Wales in Hamilton on Sunday for them to make it through to the tournament quarter-finals for the first time in 16 years.
While Samoa's match will be played on Friday it will actually be September 29 - the anniversary of the disaster - in Samoa, which lies to the east of the international dateline, putting it a day behind New Zealand.