Lucky Maree takes us through the minute-by-minute as the Springboks, far from their best, manage to pull it together and beat Tonga in their final group stage tie of the World Cup.
➤ With minutes to go:
Jacques Nienaber puts the tie into perspective: “First we win the match, then we score four tries, then we win by more than 37 points,” he said.
All eyes, of course, are on Handré Pollard at flyhalf and Deon Fourie at hooker.
As always, what a disaster it would be if the Springboks lose a player for the rest of the tournament due to a red card!
➤ 1st half:
One minute into the game, Marvin Orie has missed taking the ball from the kick off and Andre Esterhuizen is caught off side right in front of the poles. Tonga lead by three.
And then, in steps the sneaky Cobus Reinach! Quick tap from a penalty. Try! And Pollard’s tough conversion is … good! SA lead by four.
Twice Tonga forego penalty attempts by William Havili (who has a nine out of nine kicking record for the tournament) to go for the lineout and the scrum. Brave, yes, but saying no thank you to six points is probably not clever.
For seven minutes Tonga are right on the Springbok tryline, but in terms of fitness, Tonga are probably sacrificing more energy than the Boks.
Again Tonga reject three points from a penalty kick. Trying to physically intimidate the Boks is probably not a smart strategy. That’s nine points declined.
From an amazingly lucky bounce wide-awake Canan Moodie snatches the loose ball and trots in under the poles. Boks lead by 14-3.
The inconsistency of the yellow cards is in the spotlight when Augustine Pulu’s tackle on Makazole Mapimpi results in a head clash. Pierce decides it’s only a penalty. “Low degree of danger,” he says. Except that Mapimpi, clearly dazed goes off for a Head Injury Assessment. Low danger, hey?
Bok power eventually kicks in and Deon Fourie scores a maul try. Again Pollard (phew!) is bang on target.
At last, Tonga are rewarded with a try by giant prop Ben Tameifuna. “It’s like trying to tackle a wine barrel,” says commentator Schalk Burger. Havili misses his first kick of the tournament. South Africa lead 21-8.
➤ 2nd half:
The Tongans are clearly tired but too many Boks are trying to break the advantage line by themselves. Williams, Reinach, Moodie, Esterhuizen are all surrendering the ball.
Jessie Kriel scores on 49 minutes after relentless pressure. Bonus point try. Job almost done.
Pollard makes it four out of four from the tee before he makes way for Manie Libbok. A very comforting return to the Springboks.
Then Tonga score a beautifully worked try through wing Fine Inisi. Again Havili misses. South Africa lead 28-13.
Willie le Roux scores in the corner and Manie Libbok nails the conversion. South Africa lead by 35-13 – long way off from the magical 37 points difference they would like to get.
It takes only a minute for Marco van Staden to score after great work by Kwagga Smith. Again Libbok (yes!) nails it. South Africa lead by 29 points with 15 minutes to go. So very close – until Tonga score a coast to coast try through Patrick Pellegrini.
After 80 minutes Kwagga Smith gets an important try. The Boks win by a precious 31 points.
South Africa (7 tries) 49-18 (3 tries) Tonga
Pictured above: Canan Moodie on the ball
Image source: X