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04 Oct 2007 12:00
South Africa coach Jake White said that hatching a victory over Fiji in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal in Marseilles on Sunday was not “rocket science”.
Possession of the ball in contact against Fiji, an area where South Africa suffered in their narrow 30-25 pool victory over Tonga, was essential, said White.
“The biggest threats from Fiji are that they are sevens exponents, they can step and break tackles, and one-on-one they can beat most people,” he said.
“They probably also have a huge amount of confidence. So when you play a team like that it’s always going to be difficult.
But it’s not rocket science, we’ve got to make sure we stick to what we do well.”
White said the Boks were prepared for Fiji’s offensive defence, looking to turn over ball away from the set piece to free up their dangerous backline.
“They give you first-phase possession, and attack second and third phase and try and get some turnover ball and then they can use their athletes out wide.
“It’s quite simple, you can get first phase.
“It’ll be a case of making sure you keep the ball in the tackle. That’s where Tonga came back at us.”
White said Fiji were “more athletic in their backs” than the Boks’ pool rivals Samoa and Tonga, whom he said were more structured.
“Tonga are the forwards, Samoa the tacklers and Fiji are the runners,” was White’s summary of the three Pacific Island teams at the 20-nation World Cup.
“We probably had the toughest pool out of everybody in terms of physicality. We had Samoa, England, Tonga, [and now] Fiji. You couldn’t ask for too many teams more direct, more abrasive than those teams.
“We’ve been fortunate to get through it.
“I’m 100% happy of where we are.
“We got a bonus point in every game except England, and we literally had a six on one and lost the opportunity to finish it off.
“And we had to play some really good games to get to that.”
White said that Fiji would suffer from the loss through injury of playmaker Nicky Little, instrumental in his side’s shock 38-34 pool win over Wales.
“To lose your flyhalf in the last move of the game going into the quarterfinal cannot be a settling thing,” he said.
“Look at what happened when we played England. They lost Olly Barkley and Jonny Wilkinson” and South Africa went on to win 36-0.
“It really has an impact on your game when you lose your number 10.”
But White added that Fiji were unlikely to change their game plan in light of Little’s enforced absence.
“They’ll still try to keep the ball in hand and move it from side to side and using their pace out wide.—AFP
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