After the almighty shudder that reverberated around the rugby world last weekend when Japan defeated the mighty Springboks, Heyneke Meyer and his team will be looking to rectify the situation with a positive performance against a Samoa team that opened their own World Cup account with a win over USA.
Still reeling from last weekend, the wounded Springboks will be out to prove that they are still contenders to win this World Cup. Meyer has made eight changes to the team that were defeated last weekend and has stated that is time to go back to basics and dominate through their physicality.
Bismarck du Plessis, a try-scorer against Japan, drops out of the match day 23 entirely and is replaced by Adriaan Strauss. Strauss made a real impact when coming off the bench last week with a barnstorming run for a try and that has clearly tipped the balance for his selection.
The impressive Lood de Jager also loses out and finds himself on the bench, being replaced by Cape Town’s Eben Etzebeth. Etzebeth is a class act and will soon enough be placed in the ‘World Class’ category. He and Victor Matfield will form a tried and tested partnership in the second row.
Duane Vermeulen’s return from injury is one of the most important additions to this team. Last week, Schalk Burger covered the role at number eight admirably but when you are playing against a team as physical as the Samoans, you need players like Vermeulen to help front up. As a ball carrier, Vermeulen is a wrecking ball, someone who carries the ball up to the gain line with ferocity and will enable the quick ball desired by the back line.
Meyer has completely changed his half back partnership. Fourie du Preez comes in at nine and Handre Pollard ousts Pat Lambie at fly half. Du Preez impressed against Japan when he came on and put pace on the ball. Pollard is not the finished article but on his day, he can really open up defences with ball in hand.
The ever-spritely Willie le Roux will be chomping at the bit to get going on Saturday. The full back, who was rested for the first match of the tournament, gives the Springboks an edge that was missing last weekend. He can attack from anywhere with devastating effect and I’m sure, with the beauty of hindsight, that Meyer wishes he picked him last Saturday.
If Jean de Villiers wasn’t the captain then his place in the team would surely have been at risk. Lightweight against Japan and nowhere near his best defensively, he moves to outside centre at the expense of Jesse Kriel. Damian de Allende comes in and he possesses what De Villiers is now lacking: size and power.
One to watch: Willie le Roux
Le Roux is one of the established stars of this Springbok outfit and how he was missed last weekend. He can score from anywhere and at any moment. Sharp off the mark, his running and ability to bring other players into the game is exemplary. His kicking game is also something that he has developed during his time in a Green shirt. Last week, Zane Kirchener kicked appallingly and never relieved any pressure from the oncoming wave of Japanese attacks. Le Roux must do better.
Samoa stuttered over the line in their opening weekend defeat of USA and rarely looked like controlling the match to put them out of sight. They, also, have rung the changes. The biggest surprise is that fly half, Tusi Pisi has been dropped to make way for Mike Stanley. The sole reason for this will be for Stanley’s superior kicking ability. If you have a chance to get points against a Tier One nation, then you must take them.
A piece of history could also be made by Samoa on Saturday. Tusi Pisi is joined on the bench by his brother George, whilst fellow sibling Ken takes his place on the wing. If they all come on then this will be the first time that three brothers will have been on the same field at a World Cup.
Family history also beckons for the Tuilagi dynasty. If Vavei Tuilagi makes an appearance then he will be the fifth Tuilagi brother to make an appearance at a World Cup. Northampton Saint Ken Pisi and Alesana Tuliagi are familiar Premiership faces so seeing the giant winger batter his way up the field will be nothing new for viewers at home.
One to watch: Tim Nanai-Williams
As already mentioned, Nanai-Williams is one of the stars of this Samoan team. He has played all of his professional rugby in New Zealand and he will be sorely missed by the Chiefs fans when he moves to Japan next season. He is solid under the high ball and this enables him to counter attack at any given opportunity. He has a real fleet of foot but also possesses a raw power as well which means if he can’t get around you, he could well go over you.
Well I got this horribly wrong last week but I believe that the wounded Springbok, fighting for its existence in this tournament, will win this match but they will certainly not have it all their own way. Samoa will be tough and confrontational. Expect to see at least one fight and expect it to involve a Tuilagi. South Africa, if they get a foothold in the game, should wear the Samoans down from 60 minutes onwards.