Springboks see off spirited Fijians
October 7, 2007
JP Pietersen crosses to score during a thrilling game in Marseille
© Getty Images
Despite a second half comeback from Fiji that saw two scintillating tries within a minute South Africa's forward power was finally able to quell the South Sea Islanders with a 37-20 win taking them to the semi finals.
The Fijians, who beat Wales last week to reach their first quarter-final in 20 years, were spirited in attack but struggled to cope with South Africa's forward power.
Fiji's biggest challenge was to be in the forwards, where their inexperienced pack was up against one of the most battle-hardened units in the world game. South Africa had the Fijians under huge pressure at the first scrum and won a first-minute penalty, which Springboks full-back Percy Montgomery saw rattle away off the post.
But after Fiji had infringed again at the breakdown, Francois Steyn took over and landed a huge kick from the halfway line.
The islanders had the neutral support inside Stade Velodrome and the volume levels rose in anticipation any time they ran with the ball.
When Montgomery's clearance was blocked by Ratuvou, the ball fell to hooker Sunia Koto who charged forward but suffered a bout of white line fever and the ball slipped from his grasp.
Fiji needed to take those chances and were soon punished.
South Africa's forwards drove them back to onto their own line before scrum-half Fourie de Preez whistled a flat pass for centre Jaque Fourie to score in the corner.
The Fijians knew they would be outmuscled up front and so were determined to have a go with any possession they managed to secure.
Gloucester open-side Akapusi Qera, number eight Sisa Koyamibole and lock Kele Leaware, all footballing forwards, made significant inroads but Fiji struggled to retain posession at the breakdown.
Fiji had a major let-off when Rabeni telegraphed a long pass out wide that was picked off by Springbok winger JP Pietersen but Ligairi recovered well.
South African open-side flanker Juan Smith was given a warning by referee Alan Lewis for a high tackle. It was one warning each after Bobo had been called up for a late charge on Montgomery.
Fiji are the sevens world champions and will threaten the most organised defence with their unique attacking style and they continued to stretch the South African defence.
Fiji captain Mosese Rauluni was enjoying a huge game and his clever chip over the top forced JP Pietersen into conceding a lineout inside the South Africa 22.
Bakkies Botha was penalised for his challenge on Fiji flanker Semisi Naevo and Bai slotted the penalty.
Botha made up for it by escaping three defenders on a galloping run deep into Fiji territory but after a slick backs move Schalk Burger ignored Dannie Roussow and coughed up posession in a was crunching double tackle.
Fiji, though, could not escape their own 22. The Springboks attacked from the lineout and hooker John Smit powered over for the second try.
Fiji started the second half on the front foot, with Rauluni, Rabeni and Bai all testing the South Africa defence with powerful running.
Bryan Habana lost his footing as he tried to counter-attack and was penalised for holding on under his own posts, allowing Bai to slot his second penalty of the afternoon.
Just for a while, South Africa seemed rattled. After Delasau had chipped ahead Habana cleaned up but threw a loose pass to Pietersen.
Steyn's long-range drop-goal attempt dropped wide and Fiji came at them again. Bai broke clear with a clever show and go before Rauluni and then Koyamaibole took up the attack.
Again, Fiji's finishing deserted them. Delasau coughed up in the tackle and the Springboks broke away through Steyne and scored their third try through JP Pietersen.
Butch James slipped the ball to Weekus van Heerden before taking a late hit from Rabeni and the flanker sent Pietersen over with a one-handed pass.
Rabeni was sin-binned for the challenge - but suddenly Fiji found their spark and scored two scintillating scores in a minute to draw level.
Delasau chipped over Montgomery and surged down the left to score after getting a favourable bounce. The try was confirmed by television official Nigel Owens.
With Rabeni still watching on, Fiji scored again straight from the restart. Lock Ifereimi Rawaqa broke through the South African defences, Rauluni, enjoying the game of his life, scurried to within five metres of the line and Bobo had enough momentum to score.
Bai's second successful conversion brought Fiji level with the Boks at 20-20.
Montgomery slotted a simple penalty to restore South Africa's lead but they could not douse the Fijian spirit. Delasau's grubber kick into the South African in-goal area caused Steyn to panic and he slipped a pass to Montgomery who was pounced on to concede a five-metre scrum.
The Springboks survived and Bai's attempted drop goal fell short and wide but they were on the rack.
Fiji took a quick lineout as they sought to keep the pace high. Delasau held off three tacklers and then Rabeni, back from the sin-bin, sliced through the South African defence.
The ball was floated out wide and only a magnificent last-gasp tackle from Pietersen on Rawaqa denied the lock a try.
South Africa had been shaken to their core in the second half but regained their composure and, with 11 minutes remaining, flanker Juan Smith drove over for the Springboks' fourth try.
And Butch James rounded off the win in the final minute as South Africa finally broke a spirited Fijian rearguard.
Fiji had managed to spoil three successive five-metre scrums before South Africa eventually moved the ball to James, who came in on the angle and crashed through two defenders to score.
South Africa (13) 37
Fiji (3) 20
South Africa: Percy Montgomery, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Francois Steyn, Bryan Habana, Butch James, Fourie du Preez, Dannie Roussouw, Juan Smit, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, CJ van der Linde, John Smit, Os du Randt
Replacements: Gary Botha, Gurthro Steenkamp, Johann Muller, Wikus van Heerden, Ruan Pienaar, Andre Pretorius, Wynand Olivier.
Fiji: Norman Ligairi; Vilimoni Delasau, Kameli Raturou, Seru Rabeni, Sireli Bobo, Seremaia Bai, Mosese Rauluni, Sisa Koyamaibole, Akapusi Qera, Semisi Naevo, Ifereimi Rawaqa, Kele Leawere, Henry Qiodravu, Sunia Koto, Graham Dewes
Replacements: Bill Gaddo, Jone Railomo, Aca Ratuva, Wame Lewaravu, Jone Daunivucu, Gabby Lovobalavu
Referee: Alan Lewis (IRE)
Concussion, relegation and the mother of all surprises - it's the Monday Maul.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies