Nearly a huge upset with one of the finer performances from a small nation wasn’t enough. South Africa did just about enough, tackled and defender too well, while Samoa, a complete contrast of style and so fun to watch for the entire 80 minutes just crashed upon the Boks’ defensive wall time and time again, losing 5-13 as the defending World Champions advance into the quarter finals while Samoa unfortunately leave us.
The big boots of Frans and Morne Steyn added to Bryan Habana’s 10th career World Cup try (40th for South Africa) put the Springboks 13-0 ahead after 26 minutes. At that point, it seemed Samoa were losing their grip on the game. Despite their flashy ball handling skills, their inability to hold on to it when nearing the 22, their inability to keep the ball after their own line outs and the terrible in their faces wind factor seemed to take the game away from them.
Like against Wales, the Springboks did just about enough to keep them ahead, nothing more. In the second half, that was almost the end of them. Tusi Pisi, Alesana Tuilagi, David Lemi, George Stowers, Maurie Fa’asavalu and Seilala Mapusua were putting on a show, but stopped again and again. The big South African forward pack, especially the smash-mouth Schalk Burger, stopped them time after time. Samoa’s persistence on trying the spectacular instead of sometimes, doing something practical, caused turnover after turnover.
The officiating crew was too harsh on the Samoans most of the night, punishing them time after time in incidents started and provoked by the South Africans. Captain Mahonri Schwalger gave us endless moments of comedy while getting talked to by the ref and paying no mind whatsoever with his automatic head nodding and then saying nothing to his players.
Stowers’ try gave a huge wind of hope into the Pacific Islanders’ sails, but the Paul Williams sending off (again provoked by a Boks player) kind of made it a lost cause. The intensity and high-fly tempers just kept rising, but South Africa were too good and too efficient to let Samoa run wild on them.
Samoa’s exit will probably fall back on the loss to Wales, the game they HAD to win, but again, lack of concentration in crucial stages and lack of rest (Wales got a week to prepare) were their downfall. The Springboks couldn’t impress again facing a opponent of some quality, but to win the World Cup, you just need to do enough, not impress the fans. So far, they’re doing it. Next up? Probably Australia, but we’ll know more after the weekend.