Samoans looking to ‘pick up the pace’

The trademark of South African teams, in years gone by, has been their bruising forwards and structured game plan. However, it is the pace with which they play the game that “scares” Samoa most.

Samoan captain and number eight Semo Sititi, who will play in his 50th Test, this time against the Springboks at Ellis Park on Saturday, admitted that the one-off international in Johannesburg will be a “huge step up” for his team.

However, before they can concern themselves with what tactics will best work against the Boks, a number of the Samoan players have to first overcome the flu bug that has enveloped the squad.

Sititi said “eight or nine” players were trying to recover in time to take on the Springboks.

“I have also picked up the [flu] virus,” Sititi said.

However, the Samoan captain is confident they will recover and make a fist of it in the Ellis Park test.

He said he doesn’t expect the South Africans to change their game plan much from that which they used in the recent two-match whitewash against England.

“Even though they have made [13] changes [to the starting XV], I don’t think the Boks will change their game plan,” Sititi told this website.

“We watched the Boks against England and it was quite amazing the pace they played with.

“We will have to pick up our pace as well,” he added.

The Ellis Park encounter, according to Sititi, is important for the Samoans because it will allow them to gauge where they are at with their World Cup preparations. South Africa and Samoa are in the same World Cup pool.

“We’ve played three tough [Pacific Nations Cup] games in the last three weeks and hopefully it will help us get it all together on Saturday against South Africa,” he said.

Samoa started their campaign in the Pacific Nations Cup tournament with an 8-3 win over Fiji, but them came unstuck against the Junior All Blacks (10-31) and Australia ‘A’ (27-15).

After the test against the Boks they have two more matches in the Pacific event – against Japan and Tonga.

But for now their focus is on Ellis Park and how to try and beat the Boks.

The traditional Samoan approach of expansive rugby will only work if they can obtain enough possession.

“In order to play and expansive game we have to create the opportunities [through the forwards]. Hopefully the weather will play along as well.

“We saw how the Springboks speeded up the game [against England] and when they do [on Saturday] we will have to be right up there with the Boks’ pace,” Sititi said.

The Samoan captain that because coach Michael Jones has used the last three matches to give all the players a run, as he searches for the perfect World Cup squad, it means continuity could be a problem for the visitors on Saturday.

“We also tended to give away possession. Against Australia ‘A’ we defended well for the first half-an-hour. But we simply turned over too much ball and we didn’t always have numbers at the breakdowns.

“We do believe if we can retain our possession, then hopefully we can change all that this Saturday.”

Against the powerful Bok pack set pieces can also be a problem for the Samoans.

“We have worked very hard on our line-outs and our scrums this week.

“The Bok pack has provided a good benchmark for the rest of the team, because they know if they don’t perform the backs don’t get any ball. We saw in those two tests against the English that the [Bok] forwards really do their job.”

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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