South Africa's Springboks give Fiji a drubbing at World Cup

South Africa’s Springboks sent the message that they were intent on holding on to their title with a methodical 49-3 win over Fiji at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday in Wellington.


AP - Defending champion South Africa promised no surprises and delivered none in a methodical 49-3 win over Fiji at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

The Springboks were happy to sketch out their gameplan before the match, revealing even to their opponents that they intended as much as possible to deprive Fiji of possession, nullifying its attacking game, and to rely on a proven defense to mop up any spontaneous threats.

They took most of the first half to perfect and apply that formula - first having to quell a fiery Fijian opening - but eventually grasped more than 60 percent of possession from which they scored six tries to take command of Pool D.

In the second spell they allowed Fiji the ball in snatches but were still forced to defend with desperation to keep the Pacific Islanders tryless.

Fiji’s intentions had been equally unambiguous. The Fijians ran the ball from the kickoff, starting within meters of their own goalline, and when in possession they used it with skill and purpose. Backs and forwards ran powerfully and with close support, showing the ability to maintain the ball through multiple phases. On defense, it made South Africa pay for every meter gained with bone-clattering tackles.

Within the first 20 minutes, Fiji made two long incursions into South African territory, holding the ball for 12 phases before the first was repelled and taking its first points from the second; from a penalty to center Seremaia Bai to level the score at 3-3.

Fiji pressed into the South African half in the 25th minute, running directly and breaking first tackles, before South Africa, from a handling error, escaped its own half and created the first try through prop Guthro Steenkamp.

From quickly-won second phase possession, the Springboks moved the ball through Morne Steyn and winger J.P. Pietersen to the 125-kilogram Steenkamp - the biggest man in the South African side - who burst two tackles near the left hand corner. Steyn converted from wide out, added a penalty two minutes later and Fiji, from a position of parity, suddenly found itself 13-3 behind.

South Africa attacked again five minutes later after fullback Patrick Lambie created space inside the left sideline for center Jaque Fourie, who scored his 31st test try.

Steyn missed the conversion and a penalty but kicked a short-range penalty in stoppage time to give South Africa a 21-3 lead. By halftime, South Africa had vital advantages of possession (58 percent) and territory (56 percent) and had contained if not repressed the Fijian threat.

Fiji’s looseforwards, No. 8 Sakiusa Matadigok and flankers Akapusi Qera and Dominiko Waqaniburotu established a strong physical presence in the first half, both on attack and defense. Lock Bakkies Botha had a strong game for South Africa before being replaced at halftime.

Fourie, who was a constant attacking threat, had a hand in the Springboks first try of the second half, working the ball up the left flank before a wipers kick found Frans Steyn in space on the right. He scored his second try of the World Cup after also touching down against Wales.

Morne Steyn scored South Africa’s fourth try in the 62nd minute and converted for a 35-3 lead. The try was the Springboks 100th in World Cup matches.

Winger Napolioni Nalaga crashed over South Africa’s line three minutes later but, amid deafening cheers, Fiji was pulled back for a forward pass.

Frans Steyn went close to his second try of the match in the 69th minute but offloaded under the posts and replacement prop Tendai Mtawarira scored.

After Fiji was denied again in the 71st, lock Danie Russouw scored the Springboks’ final try and Morne Steyn added the conversion to finish with 16 points.

The win _ South Africa’s third from as many meetings with Fiji _ followed its 17-16 win over Wales six days ago and kept it atop a group with matches against Samoa and Namibia remaining. Fiji is now 1-1 after beating Namibia 45-29 in its opening match.

John Smit led the Springboks in his 108th test match to gain a share, with lock Victor Matfield, of the South African record for most test appearances. Matfield missed Saturday’s match with a hamstring strain, as did center Jean de Villiers with a rib cartilage sprain and winger Bryan Habana with a knee injury.

The win was South Africa’s ninth in succession in Rugby World Cup matches, approaching the record of 10 it set in 1995 and 1999.

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