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Samoa hopes still high despite loss

Monday 28 September 2015 | Published in Regional


BIRMINGHAM – After all the talk of another potential upset, Samoa was unable to contain an angry South Africa as the Springboks sought redemption from their shock first match Rugby World Cup loss to Japan last week.

The result does not have a huge impact on Samoa’s hopes of qualifying out of pool play, however, with Japan and Scotland still likely to be their key fixtures.

South Africa, brilliantly marshalled by Fourie du Preez in his first start in 15 months, ran in six tries including a JP Pietersen hat-trick to hammer Samoa 46-6 and get its Rugby World Cup challenge back on track.

Samoa fly half Michael Stanley slotted over two early penalties, but South Africa took a grip on the game after right wing Pietersen intercepted a lobbed pass by Stanley and raced more than half the pitch to score.

“That intercept in the first half cost us for the whole game,” said Samoa’s captain, Ofisa Treviranus.

“If that intercept hadn’t gone, the game was really tough, and we would have had a really tight game. After that intercept, some of the boys were heads down.”

Samoa’s heads were down but they do not consider themselves out of contention in Pool B.

Coach Betham said: “At the moment I think our pool is still wide open. It’s anyone’s game. We lost today but we still have a chance.”

Fly half Handre Pollard kicked four penalties to give the Springboks a 17-6 half-time lead before they went on to demonstrate their true tournament credentials.

Later in the second half Samoa looked to have reduced the deficit when replacement Tusi Pisi went over for what would have been the try of the match – only for the effort to be disallowed due to a forward pass.

Replacement forward Schalk Brits scored the bonus-point try for South Africa before Pietersen completed his treble with five minutes remaining and Bryan Habana had the final word when he raced over to score his 60th try for his country.

The win came at a great cost to South Africa with captain Jean de Villiers announcing that his 13-year international rugby career has come to an end after he was ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a broken jaw sustained in Saturday’s victory over Samoa.

The Springbok centre has played 109 times for his country at senior level and three years ago became the 54th Springbok captain.

“When I got injured yesterday and I left the field, I knew that I had played my last test for South Africa,” De Villiers said on Sunday. “I won’t get this opportunity again.”

The three brothers of the Pisi family made World Cup history for Samoa when they took the field together in an otherwise forgettable afternoon for the Pacific islanders.

When George Pisi came off the bench as a replacement for Samoa it made the record books with three brothers appearing on the field at the same time.

Youngest brother and wing Ken Pisi started the match and the oldest, Tusi, was brought on early in the second half. When George replaced Alesana Tuilagi in the 65th minute, it completed the triumvirate.

Ken and George both play their club rugby for Northampton in England, while kicker Tusi plays in Japan for Suntory Sungoliath.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” Ken said. “We were aware it could happen and we’ve always wanted to play in the same team, which we have done at provincial level, but never for country, which means a lot for our family.

“We’re sad to lose, but it was a special thing, history in the making – a good feeling. We’ve made it into the record books.”

The three Pisi siblings are now aiming to clinch starting places for Samoa’s next match against Japan on October 3 in Milton Keynes. They each bring different qualities.

Ken said: “Tusi is the serious one, and George is the joker in the family. I’m just the quiet one, I’m chilled. On the field Tusi, he’d say, has the brains, George has got the aggression and physicality and I’ve got the speed.”

More family history was written when Samoa’s Vavae Tuilagi came off the bench for his Rugby World Cup debut in the 62nd minute.

Four of his brothers have played in the tournament. They are Freddie (1995), Henry (2007), Alesana (2007, 2011 and 2015) for Samoa, and Manu for England four years ago.

South Africa’s impressive win over Samoa in Birmingham was marred by two pitch invaders, one of whom attempted to join the on-field action.

The first man, dressed in a Springboks jersey, ran onto the park in the 81st minute and threw himself into the Samoan ruck.

Boks No 8 Duane Vermeulen immediately took exception but was unable to stop him and it was left to the smallest bloke on the field, replacement Samoan halfback Vavao Afemai, to throw the intruder to the ground.

Security escorted the man from the stadium, and the crowd made their feelings clear by booing him, but a second pitch runner made it onto the field during the post match speeches, scoring a mock try under the posts.

As the first intruder was led from the field Samoa halfback Kahn Fotuali’i threw a plastic bottle at him, expressing his disgust.