300-pound Samoans give Boks pause for thought

Bryan Habana is convinced the Springboks have a team capable of retaining the World Cup but the winger is expecting a huge physical battle against Samoa as they seek to secure their place in the last eight on Friday.

The prolific winger scored four tries when the sides met at the last World Cup in 2007 but his memories of the 59-7 victory at the Parc de Princes in Paris are not all fond.

“It is pretty tough against some of the island teams and that first 20 minutes against Samoa in 2007 was some of the toughest test match rugby I have ever played,” Habana told reporters at the team hotel on Thursday.

“I think it will be the same tomorrow. The structure that Samoa have come into with so many of their players playing in the European leagues has made them a much improved side.

“They are going to lay down a big challenge to us, not only physically but also in their structure.”

South Africa, however, are one of the best structured sides in the world and their miserly defence has given up just 19 points and one try in their three victories so far in the competition.

“I think it’s become personal now with the guys, we want to keep our defensive record the best in the competition,” said assistant coach Gary Gold.

Just two points from a draw against the Samoans in Albany on Friday would be enough to secure the Springboks a place in the quarterfinals and keep them on track to become the first team to retain the Webb Ellis Trophy.

“Within the team there’s definitely a belief that we can go on and win this World Cup,” said Habana, who scored his 39th Test try in the win over Namibia last week.

“There’s always going to be favourites in a tournament and I think the All Blacks have definitely laid down a marker over the last couple of weeks.

“But we can only focus on the game against Samoa because it’s a knockout game for us tomorrow and if we look further forward, we might end up falling and there’ll be no quarterfinal for us to play.”

Samoa, who have never beaten South Africa in six previous attempts, need a victory against the Springboks and a win or draw for their fellow Pacific islanders Fiji against Wales on Sunday to reach the quarterfinals for a third time.

The match at the North Harbour Stadium is being played on the second anniversary of the tsunami which struck Samoa in 2009, killing 149 people.

“It will be a tough job for our coaching staff and the senior players to help us keep our emotions in check,” said captain Seilala Mapusua. “The fear factor for us is what is at stake, the significance of the match.” – Reuters

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