Sunday, October 07, 2007

Springboks Get A Fright

South Africa missed the chance of early points when Percy Montgomery pulled a shot at goal wide of the posts in the 3rd minute. The next penalty was awarded just in the Boks' half, and this time Francois Steyn stepped up with his huge boot for the first points, 3-0.

The forwards laid the foundations of South Africa's first try, with a catch and drive manoeuvre from a 5m lineout, which was held up just short of the line. It was recycled and spun out to the wing, where Centre Jaque Fourie was lurking, just dotting the ball down by the corner flag. Montgomery couldn't convert, but the Boks were 8-0 up.

The Fijian scrum was tested at 20 minutes, but Sisa Koyamaibole picked up at the base, with Mosese Raulini weaving across the field. It looked promising, but the Boks forced a penalty.

The South Africans knocked on in the 22nd minute, and the scrum was won by Fiji. They broke towards the Boks' line, with several rucks formed by the forwards. A minute later, Fiji had a lineout well into the South African half, but Bakkies Botha [left] pulled down the jumper in the air - first penalty attempt for Seremaia Bai. It sailed through the posts, and Fiji were still in the running at 8-3.

Fiji's scrum might not be too strong, but their lineout was functioning well. They won another good lineout at 28 minutes, and worked it across the field, but the Springboks snatched it mid-pass. They never made anything of it, and Fiji were able to clear.

The Boks squandered a chance at 32 minutes, when they knocked on right by the line after a huge, crunching, two-on-one tackle from Fiji. But made up for it again when Captain John Smit scored on the right side. Montgomery's conversion was shocking, nowhere near the posts. So they went in at half time just ten points up, at 13-3.

The first score in the half was vital, and Fiji were making inroads into the Boks' half. They lost possession, but Bryan Habana slipped, a ruck formed, and the Boks were pinged for holding on. Seremaia Bai slotted it through the posts, no problem. Fiji were back in at 13-6.

Fiji made a great break in the 48th minute, but just knocked on close to the Boks' line. Francois Steyn intercepted and ran the other way. The Boks worked a lovely try for JP Pietersen, and finally Percy Montgomery struck the conversion. The nail in the Fijian coffin? 20-6 is a long way to come back from. Especially with Seru Rabeni in the sinbin.

No sooner was it thought, than Vilimoni Delasau chipped and chased ahead from well into his own half, and scored! The Boks looked stunned, and even more so when Bai struck a sweet conversion. At 20-13 ahead, it was game on.

At the restart, South Africa were asleep again, and Fiji stole the ball, Mosese Rauluni [left] broke free and passed off to Sireli Bobo [right] for a fantastic try - with the conversion also clean, it was a shocking state for the Boks at 59 minutes - 20-all with Fiji still a man down in the sinbin. Wow!

Twenty minutes to go, and still all to play for. A couple of minutes later, Fiji gave away a penalty, Montgomery took the 3 points to take them ahead again, 23-20. A Springbok knock-on at the restart gave Fiji the scrum feed. They worked it wide, kicked ahead and Francois Steyn picked it up in the Boks' in-goal area - but was then in trouble with a double tackle from Fiji. Scrum Five to Fiji. They pushed up, Rauluni right up to the line. Then Fiji knocked on.

At 66 minutes, Bai attempted a drop goal as the South African defence was keeping them out - but it went just wide. Fiji were on the attack again in the next minute, JP Pietersen just pushing Ifereimi Rawaqa into touch before he could ground the ball.

At 68 minutes, Fiji threw another crooked lineout, giving South Africa a close range scrum. The forwards drove, and over they rumbled with Juan Smith the last man with the ball. Monty converted to settle the Boks with a 30-20- lead.

Seven minutes to go, Fiji got turned over in their own half, Butch James tried a drop goal, it was too long, but Fiji touched in the air, giving the Boks a 5m scrum. The forwards rumbled on again, and Schalk Burger [right] had a try in the bag, but he dropped it right by the line. He will be kicking himself! Fiji's 5m scrum was stolen but the Boks knocked on again. Another 5m scrum! There was a massive pileup right on the line. Back to the Boks for a scrum. Another drive for the line, and more argey bargey. Another scrum for South Africa. More driving from Burger at the back, and the front row went up. They drove for the third time, but Fiji's defence was huge. Eventually it came back on the South African side, and Butch James ran wide and slid over the line. Montgomery added the extras, to take them up to 37-20.

The scoreline belied the truth, Fiji fought right to the end and gave it their all. They've been hugely entertaining in all their games. South Africa were really rattled at one point, and lost their shape at the end. Plenty for them to work on for next weeekend.

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