Boks put one foot in quarters after bruising encounter against Tonga
MATCH REPORT: The Springboks climbed to the top of Pool B with a 49-18 win over Tonga in Marseille on Sunday.
After securing a bonus point, the Springboks now have 15 points with Ireland sitting with 14 points and Scotland in third with 10 points.
South Africa’s final position in the pool will depend on the result between Ireland and Scotland in the final round of pool matches next weekend.
One of the disappointing aspects of the win for the Boks is that they could only manage a 31-point winning margin. It gives them a points difference of 117, which is five short of the Irish.
There is one way the Boks can miss out on a quarterfinal spot. Scotland will need to beat Ireland with a bonus point and by more than 20 as well as Ireland getting a bonus point for scoring four tries in the same match.
After a scrappy start by the Springboks, Tonga opened the scoring with a penalty from William Havili in the third minute.
However, the Boks hit back in the fifth minute with Cobus Reinach catching Tonga off guard with a quick-tap penalty and racing to the corner for the first try of the game.
Pollard added the extra two points with an excellent conversion.
Tonga then started to dominate possession and territory and they were camped inside South Africa’s 22, but the Boks’ defence held firm under immense pressure.
After weathering the storm, the Boks scored their second try when centre Canan Moodie picked up the ball after it bounced off Vincent Koch’s shoulder before printing away to the tryline with Pollard converting the score again.
The Boks kept the pressure on Tonga with several driving mauls in the 22 and one of them eventually led to a try for hooker Deon Fourie. Pollard was on target with the conversion.
Before that try, Tonga was lucky not to have Augustine Pulu sent to the sinbin for a head-on-head collision with Makazole Mapimpi, who had to leave the field after that.
Tonga needed to be the next to score if they wanted to stay in the fight and they did with captain Ben Tameifuna crashing over the Bok tryline from close range after sustained pressure. Havili was unsuccessful with the conversion.
At half-time, it was 21-8 to the Boks.
After a couple of wasted opportunities in the opening minutes of the second half, the Boks eventually got their bonus-point try in the 49th minute after Jesse Kriel pushed his way over the tryline after several phases. Pollard made it a 20-point lead with the conversion.
However, Tonga continued to show some grit in open play and they were rewarded in the 53rd minute when Fine Inisi collected the ball from a long pass in the Boks’ 22 before sprinting away for his team’s second try. Havili once again missed the conversion.
Tonga then kicked themselves in the foot a few minutes later when they lost the ball in contact in their own 22 which allowed the Boks to spread the ball wide to Willie le Roux who had enough pace and power to get to the tryline.
Libbok added the extras with a tricky conversion.
Gaps were starting to appear in the Tongan defence and it soon led to the Boks’ sixth try. It all started with a great line-break from Kwagga Smith in the midfield and after some neat passes and a few phases, Marco van Staden crashed over the five-pointer.
With the game opening up, both teams started to lose a bit of stricture in the match and Tonga took advantage of it with Patrick Pellegrini scoring after collecting the ball from a chip kick.
However, it was the Boks who had the final say of the game with Kwagga Smith crashing over for his team’s seventh try before the full-time whistle.
Man of the match: Eben Etzebeth and Duane Vermeulen both put in huge shifts, especially in the physical exchanges. Flyhalf Handre Pollard had a solid outing in the backline. His decision-making was good and his kicking was spot on. However, the award goes to hooker Deon Fourie, who was immense in open play. He carried the ball 13 times in the match and he made over 30 metres. He also got his name on the scoresheet.
For South Africa:
Tries: Reinach, Moodie, Fourie, Kriel, Le Roux, Van Staden, Smith
Cons: Pollard 4, Libbok 3
Tries: Tameifuna, Inisi, Pellegrini
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Grant Williams, 13 Canan Moodie, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Siya Kolisi (Captain), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Marco van Staden, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Jesse Kriel, 23 Manie Libbok
Tonga: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Fine Inisi, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Anzelo Tuitavuki, 10 William Havili, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Semisi Paea, 7 Sione Talitui, 6 Tanginoa Halaifonua, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Halaleva Fifita, 3 Ben Tameifuna (captain), 2 Paula Ngauamo, 1 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi.
Replacements: 16 Sam Moli, 17 Tau Koloamatangi, 18 Sosefo Apikotoa, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Sione Vailanu, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Patrick Pellegrini, 23 Afusipa Taumoepeau.
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England) & Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)
Photo by: Johan Orton