Fiji captain Deacon Manu says that attacking rugby and ultimately four-try bonus points will determine which teams progress from a competitive Pool D.
Sam Domoni has made three changes to his side for Saturday’s clash with the Springboks. Unsurprisingly, the Fiji coach has opted for a group of players that will stick to their attacking mantra rather than attempt to match the Boks in a grinding forward battle.
The game in Wellington will witness a clash of styles, as the adventurous Fijians line up against the pragmatic South Africans. Bok coach Peter de Villiers and his charges have done nothing but talk about defensive systems, kicking accuracy and forward dominance since the team touched down in New Zealand, and it’s clear their emphasis is on defensive pressure rather than ball-in-hand attack.
The Boks will top the pool if they win their three remaining pool games, and having beaten Wales they will not concern themselves with pushing for bonus points. Fiji, however, will persist with their running game, hoping that it will secure them sufficient log points to advance to the next stage.
‘It’s a tough pool where about four teams are capable of making it to the next round,’ said Manu. ‘We’ve already seen how the little edges have made the difference with one point deciding the Boks vs Wales match. It may be a similar case at the end of the group stage when bonus points decide who goes through.
‘We will be looking to play rugby this weekend. We will have to stand up to the Boks physically, mentally and tactically, but we do want to express ourselves.’
Fiji have been training at night so as to acclimatise to the conditions in Wellington, which tend to change from one hour to the next. The Boks vs Wales match was played in driving rain while the howling wind also made kicking and handling difficult.
Manu and Domoni said the Fijians will need to adapt and continue to play to their strengths.
‘There were a few weaknesses [evident in last Saturday's win over Namibia] that we need to polish,’ said Domoni. ‘It’s going to be a very exciting game.’
Fiji – 15. Kini Murimurivalu, 14. Vereniki Goneva, 13. Gaby Lovobalavu, 12. Seremaia Bai, 11. Naipolioni Nalaga, 10. Waisea Sedre Luveniyali, 9. Nemia Kenatale, 8. Sakiusa Matadigo, 7. Akapusi Qera, 6. Dominiko Maiwiriwiri Waqaniburotu, 5. Wame Lewaravu, 4. Leone Nakarawa, 3. Deacon Manu (c), 2. Sunia Koto, 1. Campese Ma’afu.
Subs: 16. Talemaitoga Dautu Tuapati, 17. Waisea Nailago, 18. Netani Edward Talei, 19. Sisa Koyamaibole, 20. Vitori Tomu Buatava, 21. Nicky Little, 22. Ravai Susau Fatiaki.
By Jon Cardinelli, in Wellington