Boks batter Fiji into submission

South Africa progressed to the Rugby World Cup semifinals on Sunday by eking out a hard-fought 37-20 victory over Fiji in a brutal but enthralling game in which no quarter was given.

With some monumental hits exchanged between two immensely physical sides, it was the Springboks’ superior forward nous and power that finally ground down a Fijian side that were only 13-3 behind at the interval.

But South Africa, the bookies’ firm tournament favourites with both Australia and New Zealand eliminated in the quarterfinals, were given the fright of their lives when Fiji scored two tries in two minutes when down to 14 men half way through the second half.

After going through extended periods of struggling to contend with the jinking Fijian runners, South Africa fell back on their more cohesive forward unit to outgun a Fiji pack well beaten in the scrum.

But while the Fiji team from numbers one through 15 all seemed capable of beating the first-up Springbok tackles, they were also guilty of losing the ball in the contact area when the second wave of defence arrived.

In a cracking start, Montgomery missed an easy penalty after the Fiji scrum buckled under the experience of the Bok front row of Os du Randt, captain John Smith and Jannie du Plessis, a late call-up for the injured CJ van der Linde.

But Steyn made amends with a 53m penalty after Fiji transgressed at a ruck.

After a charged-down clearance kick, the Boks were on the rack but Fiji hooker Sunia Koto spilled the ball with attackers out wide and the line beckoning.

Showing ambition, the Boks spurned their next kickable penalty chance and kicked to touch. From the ensuing ruck, Fourie du Preez fired out an inch-perfect pass for centre Jacque Fourie to cross unmolested in the corner.

But Fiji were far from out of it, with Koto, impressive number eight Sisa Koyamaibole and Gloucester-bound open-side flanker Akapusi Qera popping up everywhere, led with aplomb by effervescent scrumhalf and captain Mosese Rauluni.

Koyamaibole also did a great job at the back of a scrum that retreated at every set, picking up quickly and making hard yards to take the pressure off his fellow forwards.

With Bok open-side Juan Smith lucky to get away with just a caution from Irish referee Alan Lewis for a cheap head shot on lock Ifereimi Rawaqa, Fiji also issued a few big hits of their own, the best coming on giant flanker Schalk Burger by Vilimoni Delasau and Qera.

John Smith was the beneficiary of South Africa’s powerful driving maul when he was driven over for a try in the 35th minute.

Bai kicked his second penalty early in the second-half after Bryan Habana was caught in possession, but the Boks responded immediately.

Lock Victor Matfield held off a tackler to offload to Pietersen for a simple run-in. To make matters worse for Fiji, centre Seru Rabeni saw yellow for a high tackle on Butch James.

But just as Fiji seemed to lose their shape, an isolated Delasau spotted a half-chance, chipped ahead and, with Montgomery nowhere to be seen, pounced on his own kick for a try that Bai converted.

Two minutes later, the irrepressible Rauluni broke the line to find Sireli Bobo steaming up in support and the winger had enough power to ride Fourie’s tackle for a try. Bai again converted to draw the scores level at 20-20.

Despite Montgomery hitting a penalty, Fiji had the chance to take the game from South Africa in the final quarter, but Seru Rabeni knocked on over the line and Pietersen came up with a magnificent try-saving tackle on Rawaqa in the corner.

The Boks made sure of the win with two late tries from Smit, who crashed over from a well-drilled rolling maul, and Butch James to break Fijian hearts of making the semifinals for the first time. — AFP

 

AFP

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Luke Phillips
Luke Phillips works from Beckenham, Kent, UK. Writer, wordsmith and blogger interested in the natural and not so natural worlds around us. My first novel 'Shadow Beast' out now! Luke Phillips has over 566 followers on Twitter.

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