Fiji won’t compromise their game for Springboks

Fiji have insisted that they will not compromise on playing a thrilling brand of ball-in-hand style rugby when they play South Africa this weekend at the Rugby World Cup.

Veteran fly half Nicky Little says that the South Sea Island team will stick to the brand of rugby that has come to personify them.

The flying Fijians notched up six tries in a 49-25 opening World Cup win over Namibia, and have promised to mix their usual ball-running skills with a bit more grit upfront in a bid to halt the Springbok forward juggernaut.

“The Fijian style is the only style we know how to play. We can try and put a lid on it, but win or lose, the boys don’t like it,” said Little, who was born in the Kiwi town of Tokoroa and made his Fiji debut against the Boks in 1996.

“The last 15 years I’ve been with the team, I’d rather see the boys enjoying themselves.

“We’re under no illusions, South Africa are pretty good.”

The 68-times capped journeyman, who has played for Sale, Pontypridd, Saracens, Petrarca, Bath and Bristol in his Europe-based career, said that the team had been training on the breakdown and set-pieces.

“We’ve been focusing on the weaknesses which were apparent on the weekend,” he said, playing down talk that Fiji found themselves in a so-called ‘pool of death’.

“Is it really the toughest group?” the 35-year-old asked. “Some people call teams minnows or stronger teams, but I think the boys think like me.

“It’s not that we don’t care, but we don’t mind who’s in there because we’re here in the World Cup.”

Fiji also train a lot differently from many other teams at the World Cup, hosting numerous open sessions that include full contact game play as well as intensive drills on such things as the breakdown and set-piece.

“We like open training sessions. We don’t really like it when it’s all closed off and there’s fancy fences everywhere,” Little said.

“It’s just like training in Fiji, where there’d always be delays as some kids take off with the balls.”

Fiji head coach Samuela Domoni said that while South Africa’s narrow 17-16 opening victory over Wales was a tough one, his side would seek to focus on their own strengths.

“The game South Africa played last week was a physical encounter but it’s just playing to the right areas we’ve targeted and we want to maximise the opportunities that arise against them,” the former Fiji forward and one-cap Wallaby said.

“They’re pretty aware of our strengths, we just try to play to our strengths, but we’re giving away a lot of things.

“We’re in the ‘pool of death’ as they say, but to get an introduction to the World Cup playing against South Africa and Namibia is a blessing because they pretty much do the same thing.

“They pretty much mirror each other. So for us going into the game against South Africa on Saturday is perfect after playing Namibia.”

Captain Deacon Manu added that the word “minnow” was almost obsolete, although he said there was still an elite trio of rugby world powers.

“Everyone’s here playing with passion and pride for the country. After 40 minutes the scores have been pretty level,” he said of a batch of remarkably tight group games betweeen differently tiered nations.

“There’s a lot of players playing overseas, but still there are top sides to beat, the South Africans, New Zealanders and Australians, they’re going to be a task for any side.”

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