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October 7th, 2007
Africa weathered a robust Fiji attack to win 37-20 in
Marseilles and progress to the World Cup semi-finals.
Fiji nearly completed the third upset of the weekend, as two
tries in as many minutes saw them enter the final quarter on
an even 20-20 keel. Only a timely return to kicking form by
Percy Montgomery, who missed his initial three attempts, as
well as poor handling by the Fijians saved South Africa from
the same fate as World Cup also-rans Australia and New
This was a crucial period in the game when Jake White’s
experienced charges came to the fore. After a lukewarm
effort, the Boks ultimately held their nerve. The 67th
minute saw a Fiji pass flung to Ifereimi Rawaqa, but a
heroic tackle by JP Pietersen forced the lock into
touch-in-goal. From then on, the Boks finished with a
14-point flourish, but it may have been different had Rawaqa
It was a confident start with the Boks in possession, as
whenever they held the ball close they progressed into
Fijian territory. John Smit elected to take a pot at goal
early on, which Montgomery, who had an average day with four
goals from seven attempts, proceeded to miss.
But the Boks ensured they got something for their early
dominance soon after this mistake. A patient build up
through the forwards eventually saw the ball fly to Jaque
Fourie, who had the simplest of run-ins at the corner.
Fiji refused to lie down and continued to throw everything
into their one-on-one tackles. They were guilty of spilling
much of their ball on attack, but then the South Africans
were frantic in launching the counter. This characterised
the play for the entire half, as the Boks took their foot
off the pedal and shifted the ball wide when they should
have hammered it up the middle.
South Africa were dominant at scrum-time, but Fiji contested
well to disrupt the Boks’ ball at the line-out. When things
got loose the South Africans dangerously tried to force
50/50 offloads. If Fiji had held more passes, they could
have scored more points without a doubt.
While Fiji’s questionable spot tackles proved effective,
their set-piece defensive structures were suspect. South
Africa kicked a penalty into the corner and finally
delivered the clinical result when John Smit burrowed over
the line just before the break.
But Fiji had the Boks rattled and continued to force the
pace. Seremaia Bai narrowed the deficit to 13-6 and a few
subsequent surges stretched the South African defence.
However, their poor handling let them down once again.
The battle at the breakdown was intense, with the Fijian
loose forwards producing a massive effort to limit the South
Africans. Juan Smith was prominent for the Boks, whether he
was soaring to collect a line-out ball or hammering a Fijian
back in the tackle. His ball-carrying gave the Boks momentum
in the first half when they received precious little
A telling blow was landed after 50 minutes when the Boks
built through some beautiful touches in midfield. The ball
was sent wide to Victor Matfield, who dragged two tacklers
before gifting a try to JP Pietersen. The seven-pointer was
compounded by the loss of Seru Rabeni, whom Alan Lewis
sin-binned for a shoulder charge on Butch James.
Some individual brilliance by Vilimoni Delasau got the
islanders back into the game when the winger chipped the
defence and collected for the score. Loose defence coupled
with fantastic Fijian-style running then allowed the
comeback when Mosese Rauluni found a hole an popped to
Sireli Bobo in support. Seremaia Bai converted both kicks,
and the 14-man islanders now had all the momentum.
The holes continued to appear as the Boks fell off tackles
with regularity. Back on the park, Rabeni was the bane of
the South African backs but he also proved to be Fiji’s
worst enemy, coughing up possession at the most inopportune
After denying Fiji a try, the Boks regained some semblance
of control. A mistake in the Fiji line-out allowed South
Africa a scrum five metres out, and after Schalk Burger
collected at the back and transferred to Smith, the Free
State flanker crashed over to give South Africa some
breathing space at 28-0.
The Boks managed to stand firm in the dying minutes and take
play back to the opposition 22. After spurning several
opportunities, James finally busted through for a
South Africa showed the necessary mettle when required, but
a more clinical performance is needed if they hope to
advance to the World Cup final.
South Africa - Tries: Jaque Fourie, John Smit, JP Pietersen,
Juan Smith, Butch James. Conversions: Percy Montgomery (3).
Penalties: Frans Steyn, Montgomery.
Fiji - Tries: Vilimoni Delasau, Sireli Bobo. Conversions:
Seremaia Bai (2). Penalties: Bai (2).
By Jon Cardinelli | Keo.co.za