26 Sep 2015

Boks meet Samoa in crunch match

1:43 pm on 26 September 2015

South Africa and Manu Samoa square off on Sunday morning in a blockbuster Rugby World Cup clash that will have a big bearing on both team's playoff hopes.

Morne Steyn of South Africa scores against Samoa's Tusi Pisi, Pretoria, 2013.

Morne Steyn of South Africa scores against Samoa's Tusi Pisi, Pretoria, 2013. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Springboks are desperate to bounce back from a shock defeat by Japan while the Manu are looking to build on their first-up win against the USA.

South Africa have spent the past week apologising for their humiliating loss to Japan and promising redemption to an angry homeland.

The Boks have made eight changes for the Samoan game, with Handre Pollard and Fourie du Preez restored in the halves.

Pollard, though still only 21, has been handed a heavy burden by his coach Heyneke Mayer.

Pollard, named World Rugby Junior Player of the Year for 2014, returns to the starting line-up for his 15th cap after ceding his place to Pat Lambie for the Springboks' past two outings -- their final World Cup warm-up win over Argentina in Buenos Aires last month and the 34-32 humbling at the hands of Japan last weekend.

"I've said to Handre this game is going to be won or lost by him," Meyer said as the Springboks prepare to pick up their campaign after that wholly unexpected defeat against Japan in their Pool B opener.

"We all know he is probably the best attacking number 10 in the world. What he will bring to the attack with (scrumhalf) Fourie du Preez can be unbelievable. He is an unbelievable prospect and will be one of the game's true greats.

"I've said to him, 'Handre, when you won the junior World Cup as a 17-year-old, you played tactically', and that is what we need from him. The attacking flair is obviously going to be there, but he has to bring to the party the other parts of his game as well."

Springbok first five Handre Pollard

Springbok first five Handre Pollard Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Pollard teams up with veteran Du Preez for only the second time since his debut against Scotland 17 months ago, with the 33-year-old scrumhalf starting a test for the first time since June last year after battling back from long-term injury.

"It's a horses for courses approach," Meyer said. "I think it's the right number nine and number 10 combination for this game. Samoa like to attack the number 10 channel and Handre is one of the best defenders.

"Fourie is a true general and one of the best rugby minds I've ever coached. He will look after Handre."

The Manu will also have a new face steering the ship, with Mike Stanley preferred to veteran playmaker Tusi Pisi at first five.

"It was totally unexpected and I'm over the moon to be selected for such a high calibre game against such a good team," said Stanley.

"I didn't expect it but was very excited when I got the heads up a few days ago," the 25-year-old said.

"We see that the two flyhalves bring different strengths and weaknesses," said coach Stephen Betham in explaining his selection.

"Mike can control the territory with his kicking game and we see him doing a bit more of that job for us."

Manu Samoa first five Mike Stanley.

Manu Samoa first five Mike Stanley. Photo: AFP

Stanley, who is without a club after an injury hit-season at Ulster, said he would not be kicking away all the possession in what is likely to be a bruising physical clash with the Springboks.

"We like to play with the ball in hand, that is the Samoan style of rugby," he said.

"We don't want to stray too far away from that but we understand that in these tight games taking your chances from kicks is important.

The 25-year-old New Zealand-born Stanley adds a new chapter to a family of some sporting pedigree with his first World Cup appearance.

His uncle Joe Stanley and two cousins played for the All Blacks,

Scotland's emphatic victory against Japan has them atop Pool B with five points, one clear of Samoa and the Brave Blossoms, with South Africa on two points and facing an early exit with another loss.

The Japan coach Eddie Jones hasn't given up on his chances of making the knockout rounds and will be an interested observer of tomorrow's game.

"If we can knock Samoa off in ten days we've got a fantastic chance. If we can't knock Samoa off we're no chance, so it's all about the Samoan game," he said.

Jones predicted the South Africa versus Samoa match could be the game of the tournament as well as "a massive bash-up festival."

Japan rugby coach Eddie Jones

Japan rugby coach Eddie Jones Photo: Photosport

"Hopefully South Africa and Samoa on the weekend is like a UFC fight."

"Then it will be interesting and Samoa have got to back up seven days [later] against us so what comes around goes around."

Meanwhile, South Africa's skipper Jean de Villiers has revealed he expected to be dropped after the Springboks sensational defeat by Japan.

But the veteran centre, who has been named as captain against Samoa, said he had a duty to repair the divisions in the country caused by the greatest upset in Rugby World Cup history.

Asked whether he had expected coach Heyneke Meyer to drop him after last Saturday's defeat, de Villiers said: "Yes I did.

"After the backing that the coach has given me, I have to perform and show that I deserve that opportunity.

"I'm very aware of the criticism he has undergone for selecting me."

There have been widespread calls in South Africa for Meyer and 34-year-old de Villiers to pay for the Japan defeat with their jobs.

Even if South Africa win the Pool B match on Saturday, the coach and captain know they are not safe.

"We all know how important this game is for our country," de Villiers said.

"We are a very proud nation. What saddens me is to see how a loss like this can break the country apart. That's a responsibility that we (have) to rectify."

Jean de Villiers of the Springboks running with the ball.

Jean de Villiers of the Springboks running with the ball. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

De Villiers said "rugby is a game, but in South Africa it has become so much more than just a game and we carry that responsibility with us every single time we enter the field. We disappointed a lot of people last week.

"We need to stand up. We put ourselves in this position and we need to get ourselves out of this position."

De Villiers, who has a World Cup curse having missed the 2003 edition through injury and then missed out on the 2007 final triumph having been injured in the opening pool game, said it has been a difficult week.

"No one died. But from a rugby point of view it has been tough. It took some time to really take in what happened at the weekend, it was a big shock.

South Africa: 1-Tendai Mtawarira, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 5-Victor Matfield, 6-Francois Louw, 7-Schalk Burger, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 9- Fourie du Preez, 10-Handre Pollard, 11-Lwazi Mvovo, 12-Damian de Allende, 13- Jean de Villiers (captain), 14-Bryan Habana, 15-Willie le Roux.

Replacements: 16-Schalk Brits, 17-Trevor Nyakane, 18-Frans Malherbe, 19- Lood de Jager, 20-Siya Kolisi, 21- Ruan Pienaar, 22- Pat Lambie, 23-JP Pietersen.

Samoa: 1-Sakaria Taulafo, 2-Motu Matu'u, 3-Anthony Perenise, 4-Teofilo Paulo, 5-Iosefa Tekori, 6-TJ Ioane, 7-Jack Lam, 8-Ofisa Treviranus (captain), 9-Kahn Fotuali'I, 10-Mike Stanley, 11-Alesana Tuilagi, 12-Rey Lee-Lo, 13-Paul Perez, 14-Ken Pisi 15-Tim Nanai-Williams.

Replacements: 16-Ole Avei, 17-Viliamu Afatia, 18-Census Johnston, 19-Faifili Levave, 20-Vavae Tuilagi, 21-Vavao Afemai, 22-Tusi Pisi, 23-George Pisi.

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