Pretoria - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s team selection for Saturday’s match against Samoa is a clear indication that the hosts expect a physical battle at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Flanker Willem Alberts and lock Flip van der Merwe were included in the starting XV to beef up the pack of forwards and as a counter to the physical Pacific Islanders.
Captain Jean de Villiers on Friday said while the Samoans were known for the physicality, they would be met with true South African grit.
“We as South Africans are proud of the way we play and we never take a step backwards when a game becomes hard and we look forward to the match.”
De Villiers had been in doubt for the crucial final of the four-nation series due to injury. He was confident he would lead the team onto the field at Loftus Versfeld.
“I reckon you should see me on the field tomorrow. If not I think the team prepared this week as if I won’t be playing,” he said.
The gritty centre said the Springboks had to show significant improvements to last weekend’s stuttering display against Scotland in Nelspruit.
De Villiers said the team had to make a step-up, particularly in defence, where they would have to stop the big, strong and fast Samoans.
“Certainly we will have to be better, there is no doubt about that and the team has selected the best team possible,” De Villiers said.
“All our defences will be tested. They are big guys running at you and you have to stop that momentum. We didn’t do that last week so we need to up it in that regard.
“It will be physical and you have to get the basics right. You have to make your tackles and you need to get over the advantage line when you’ve got the ball.”
The Bok skipper said while there was a lot of talk of the Samoans seeking revenge for their 13-5 defeat to South Africa at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, circumstances were different this time.
He said Samoa was a vastly improved side to the one that ran out against the Springboks two years ago.
The point margins from the two teams’ last three encounters also supported De Villiers’ view that the Islanders made significant progress.
Before their match at the World Cup, the Samoans suffered two crushing defeats against the Boks, losing 59-7 at the 2007 World Cup in France and 35-8 in South Africa earlier that year.
“They are the seventh ranked team in the world and they don’t get a lot of time together and they tend to get the results,” De Villiers said.
“They are beating top-tier nations consistently these days and they are probably the most improved side in world rugby over the last couple of years and they are producing quality players.”
15. Willie le Roux, 14. Bryan Habana, 13. JJ Engelbrecht, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain) / Jan Serfontein, 11. Bjorn Basson, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Pierre Spies, 7. Willem Alberts / Siya Kolisi, 6. Francois Louw, 5. Flip van der Merwe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Adriaan Strauss, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Trevor Nyakane, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Juandre Kruger, 20. Siya Kolisi / Marcell Coetzee, 21. Piet van Zyl, 22. Pat Lambie, 23. Jan Serfontein/ Juan de Jongh
15. James So'oialo, 14. Alapati Leiua, 13. Paul Williams (captain), 12. John Leota, 11. Alesana Tuilagi, 10. Tusiata Pisi, 9. Jeremy Sua, 8. Taiasina Tuifua, 7. Jack Lam, 6. Ofisa Treviranus, 5. Daniel Leo, 4. Teofilo Paulo, 3. Census Johnston, 2. Wayne Ole Avei, 1. Sakaria Taulafo
Substitutes: 16. Ti'i Paulo, 17. Logovii Mulipola, 18. James Johnston, 19. Kane Thompson, 20. Junior Poluleuligaga, 21. Brando Vaaulu, 22. Seilala Mapusua, 23. Alafoti Faosiliva