Samoans playing for the right reasons

When the rugby teams of South Africa and Samoa go head-to-head in a one-off test at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, on Saturday it will be power against passion.

Legendary former All Black loose forward Michael Jones, the current coach of the Manu Samoa team, said John Smit’s class of 2007 is playing a “wonderful style of rugby”, reminiscent of the rugby the Boks played during their victorious World Cup in 1995.

He feels the current Bok side is setting a standard for the rest to follow.

Jones readily admits that his team – a collection of club and Super 14 players from various parts of the world – are on a “steep learning curve” in South Africa.

But, as an amateur nation that simply don’t have the money that are being bandied about in the top rugby playing countries, they still believe in the true values of rugby.

“They are ready to die for their country,” Jones told this website.

“They are very passionate – it means a lot to them to represent their country, their people, their family and the Manu Samoa jersey.

“It is definitely not about money, because we don’t have money in our programme. It is all about playing for the right reasons and the right values,” the Samoan coach added.

Their trip to South Africa comes in the middle of their Pacific Nations Cup campaign – where they face Fiji, Tonga, Australia ‘A’, Japan and the Junior All Blacks.

Samoa beat Fiji 8-3 in their first match, but then lost 10-31 to the Junior All Blacks and 15-27 to Australia ‘A’. They still have to play Japan and Tonga.

“It obviously involves some extra travel,” Jones said of the trip to Johannesburg.

“We had to come from Australia to Johannesburg and Sunday we leave for Japan, but we’re happy with the opportunity to play the Springboks in South Africa.

“You never pass up an opportunity like this – it is very important for us and a critical step for us towards the World Cup.

“It is also a huge honour for the team to play the Springboks, especially here in Johannesburg and at Ellis Park – it doesn’t come any better for a young rugby player.”

Jones has some fond memories of Ellis Park and described playing at the stadium as a “dream come true”.

“I told the boys that it is something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives – it doesn’t come any bigger than playing the Boks at Ellis Park. This is indeed a big opportunity for these young Samoans and I’m very clear in my mind the significance of playing the Boks here.”

While the Samoans are not regarded as genuine contenders for World Cup honours later this year, Jones feel they are on the right track.

“Obviously we don’t have the luxury of a Super 14 competition where we can watch 200 of our best players in the same system, going head-to-head with the best in the world every week,” he said.

“We have eight or nine different systems that our players are active in – players playing club rugby in Samoa, players playing Super 14, playing club rugby in Auckland, Wellington and Sydney.

“We will use the next three/four weeks to shape our team for the World Cup. We are getting close to our best 30 players, but we are also still waiting on another five or six who had been either injured, or involved in the Samoan Sevens programme and some still coming back from Europe .

“We are making good progress and this is part of that big stepping stone.”

Jones said he has been following the Super 14 very closely and have been impressed with the quality of the South African game.

“We have been following the Super 14 recently and that’s the gauge we have to take. We’re obviously very familiar with South African rugby, the tradition and the heritage.

“We’re really just looking at the last two months [of the Super 14] and what South African rugby has been able to achieve and it’s very healthy, in a very good place. There is a wealth of rugby

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