MARK KEOHANE, in his weekly Business Day column, says the Springboks have always known what it takes to beat Samoa.
Australia on Sunday showed Samoa very little respect – and paid the price. The Springboks won’t make the same mistake at this year’s World Cup when the play the Samoans at the North Harbour Stadium in Albany.
South Africa’s approach will not have been influenced by Samoa’s first win against the Wallabies yesterday.
The Springboks have always shown the Samoans the utmost respect, and it is because the Samoans physically can match the Boks. Historically, though, the Islanders have managed an intensity that lasts only half the game and when the conditioning of a player isn’t good enough, neither is his focus or discipline.
The Boks have always known to prepare for a first half mugging from the Samoans with the knowledge that the second half will be a different game. The Samoans, to use a boxing analogy, have always boxed themselves out against the equally tough Boks.
The immediate reaction to Samoa’s win in Sydney on the social network services and among the media was rather predictable.
‘Let this serve as a World Cup wake up call for the Boks … Samoa won’t be easy … the Boks can take nothing for granted … and … and … and …’
There is no need for a South African wake-up call because Samoa, on the merits of the side that started against the post Super Rugby mix and match selection the Wallabies put together, were comfortably the equal of the hosts player for player.
There were more first-team regulars not playing than what started for Australia against Samoa – and don’t ignore this fact because of the romance of the Samoan win.
Samoa’s best played on Sunday. The history makers – as they will forever be known in Samoan rugby – either play Super Rugby or they play in Europe’s premier competitions. You only had to follow their end-of-year European tour to know they will not be easy beats at the World Cup. For those in need of a reminder the Samoans were within a few minutes of knocking over Ireland in Dublin and England beat them by 10 at Twickenham.
Every Bok who has ever played against the Samoans knows that the 50-point average score does not do justice to the aches and pains associated with the occasion.
Every match against the Samoans is a physical confrontation from which there isn’t an escape. Genetically their blokes have the edge, but when comes to will, strength of mind and strategic and tactical approach, the Boks have been the masters.
The Boks average 50 points a Test against Samoa, but in the last World Cup the first 40 minutes against the Samoans in Paris was probably the toughest the Boks played in the tournament.
The Boks led 9-7 at half time and Bok coach at the time Jake White admitted to not knowing what to do in the opening 30 minutes, such was the Samoan presence in any contact situation.
White said the first half physicality was something his team had not encountered against anyone and all that he hoped was that the Islanders would not be able to sustain it. They didn’t and the Boks won 59-7. The 2007 World Cup Samoan coach (the All Blacks great flanker) Michael Jones lambasted his squad’s lack of conditioning.
He said for Samoa to evolve as a team the players needed to be more professional about their day-to-day approach to rugby as profession. Jones specifically was referring to the sub-standard individual match conditioning when compared with the likes of South Africa.
He also said the team needed to play together more between World Cups and that it did not serve Samoa’s ambitions as a rugby nation that the only time they could field their best team was every four years at the World Cup.
The situation has improved. The core of the side that beat Australia on Sunday played Super Rugby this year and the others are influential players in Europe. Most of them also toured together last November.
I did not think Samoa would win in Sydney because I never have a belief in their ability to last 80 minutes against any of the top five. I also did not think the Wallabies would be so poor, but one can’t ignore the significance of the Reds first Super Rugby triumph and the impact it would have had on Australian preparations.
Mentally those Reds players were still in transit from Super Rugby to the Tri-Nations, and the others who were not involved in the Super Rugby final win played the first 30 minutes as if it was a contact training session with predetermined moves.
The Boks, against Samoa, have never made the mistake of not taking points, of not playing with structure and of not matching them at the breakdown. Give the Bok players the credit they deserve when it comes to knowing what is required to beat Samoa.
See the Samoan win yesterday for what it was … their best on a good day making rugby history against Australia’s second best on a bad day.