Rugby World Cup 2011

Boks v Samoa: 3 huge duels

2011-09-29 10:01
JP Pietersen (File)

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - A difference in IRB world ranking places of eight, and South Africa’s commanding RWC track record against them, suggests that the Springboks should have a reasonably smooth ride past Samoa in their last Pool D fixture at North Harbour on Friday.

GALLERY: RWC Match-ups: Springboks v Samoa

But statistics will count for nothing as the defending champions try to finalise their passage to the quarter-finals and the underdogs throw the kitchen sink in their own, less likely quest to make the cut.

It is widely acknowledged that there will be bone-crunching “hits” galore between two of the more physical nations around, and these are a mini-selection of enticing one-on-ones that could go a long way to deciding which team comes out alive, as it were ...

1. Tendai Mtawarira v Census Johnston

The 116kg Beast will surrender all of 20 kilograms when the Bok loosehead crowd-pleaser packs down against Samoan No 3 Johnston in the set scrums and presumably grapples with him a few times in general play as well. Yes, the Toulouse tighthead is one of the biggest specimens around at his specialist trade: just observe how “stretched” that tattoo around his chest is, if you get the opportunity to see it! But Mtawarira, who is involved in a healthy internal tussle with Gurthro Steenkamp for rights to the Bok No 1 jersey, tends not to be intimidated by tales of the tape and would also probably trounce Johnston in a 50-metre ball-in-hand dash. Still, whether the Auckland-born Samoan is prepared to simply roll over and play “Vickery” for the Beast remains to be seen ...

2. Fourie du Preez v Kahn Fotuali’i

Three or four years ago, more obvious supremacy in this match-up would probably have been tipped for Du Preez, one of the most distinguished individuals of the last World Cup. But the landscape has changed a tad with the passage of time ... and this meeting of two seasoned, 29-year-olds suddenly has a more even look to it on current form. Du Preez still does some things brilliantly – instinct doesn’t dim with the creep of age – but he has also started making far more basic, inexplicable errors in recent weeks and is under some pressure from Francois Hougaard for first-choice status at scrumhalf. He needs to “boss” Fotuali’i on Friday to remind of his pedigree. But it won’t be easy: the Crusaders man has been industrious and inventive for the Samoans and boasts tries in each of his country’s RWC 2011 wins thus far, too - against Namibia and Fiji.

3. JP Pietersen v Alesana Tuilagi

Here’s another tussle where one man – the Springboks’ Pietersen – will concede a bit in “tonnage” to the fellow opposite him. But not too much: it is handy that the Sharks wing, wearing No 14 on Friday, tips the scales above 100kg and is a good height match considering that the Samoan left wing, Tuilagi, is a human freight train at 117kg. Like many Pacific Islanders of his physical makeup, the huge-thighed Leicester Tigers icon can be unstoppable if he gets a head of steam, but is glaringly less comfortable when the ball is put behind him and he has to scramble on defence. Pietersen has been workmanlike at the World Cup while not sparkling to quite the extent seen in the last Super Rugby season, but his better all-round game could count for a lot in this slug-out ...


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