South Africa v Tonga live updates, how to watch, Rugby World Cup ...
South Africa’s Rugby World Cup defense appears to be at a crossroads as they take on Tonga.
One way is sticking with Manie Libbok at flyhalf, where there will be an air of adventure in attack — cross-kicks, cutout passes and all — but a sense of doubt when kicking for goal, as was evident in the loss to top-ranked Ireland.
The other way is where the Springboks will go into their final pool game against Tonga on Monday NZT by recalling the experienced Handre Pollard at 10 after he got a second chance at the Rugby World Cup with a late callup to the squad as an injury replacement.
Pollard is a throwback to 2019, when he was the ultra-reliable World Cup-winning flyhalf and South Africa ground its way to the title with a powerful forward effort, a mean defense and an almost-constant focus on tactical kicking. Pollard collected the points with his boot whenever the opportunity arose.
South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber spoke on Friday about “certain things we have to rectify” after the 13-8 loss to Ireland last weekend. High on that list will be goalkicking, where Libbok and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk missed 11 points with the boot against the Irish that might have made the difference.
Intriguingly, Pollard’s return comes when the Springboks have to score tries against Tonga — at least four of them — to earn the bonus point that will improve their chances of making the quarterfinals. South Africa hopes tries also bring plenty of opportunities for Pollard to get his range with the boot.
There are no guarantees with Pollard, though, who was out for nearly three months with a calf problem and has played only about half an hour of rugby for club team Leicester two weeks ago since his return to fitness. This will be his first test in more than a year.
“I am going to be realistic about it. Having played 30 minutes ... a few weeks ago to playing a test match in a World Cup is quite a big jump,” Pollard said. “I’m confident in the way we prepare here. My expectations for myself is just going to be to express myself and enjoy it knowing that it’s not going to be perfect.”
Pollard may have limited expectations, but it’s likely the one chance he will get to convince Nienaber to take a different route to Libbok if and when the Boks reach the quarters.
Tonga coach Toutai Kefu described the challenge of facing a Springboks team smarting from that loss to Ireland in a titanic game as the kind that gets him “out of bed.”
He urged his team to also come alive after two hefty defeats at the hands of Ireland (59-16) and Scotland (45-17) mean Tonga’s opportunities to make the kind of impact in France that Kefu thinks they are capable of are running out.
“We didn’t throw any punches when we played Ireland,” Kefu said. “They put us under an enormous amount of pressure, and rightly so. They’re a very good team.
“We got some looks in the second game, but still a huge amount of turnovers. Lineout (is) still a work in progress. But we’re getting better, that’s a positive. We’re hoping third up, so to speak, we’re going to put our best foot forward.”
South Africa has 12 starting changes from Ireland, the most intriguing being flanker Deon Fourie packing down as hooker and Marco van Staden, another loose forward, playing the role of reserve hooker. Libbok is also on the bench.
Tonga was forced to replace suspended No. 8 Vaea Fifita, a former New Zealand international, with Semisi Paea. Kefu also brought in two new wings in Anzelo Tuitavuki and Fine Inisi.
Scrumhalf Augustine Pulu, center Malakai Fekitoa and fullback Charles Piutau, also all former All Blacks, will start and have the ability to make Pollard’s return difficult.History
Played two times: South Africa won twoTAB odds
South Africa $1.001 Tonga $36How to watch
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South Africa 62 Tonga 14Lineups
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Grant Williams, Canan Moodie, Andre Esterhuizen, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach; Jasper Wiese, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi (captain), Marvin Orie, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Deon Fourie, Ox Nche. Reserves: Marco van Staden, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Jaden Hendrikse, Jesse Kriel, Manie Libbok.
Tonga: Charles Piutau, Fine Inisi, Malakai Fekitoa, Pita Ahki, Anzelo Tuitavuki, William Havili, Augustine Pulu; Semisi Paea, Sione Talitui, Tanginoa Halaifonua, Sam Lousi, Halaleva Fifita, Ben Tameifuna (captain), Paula Ngauamo, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi. Reserves: Sam Moli, Tau Koloamatangi, Sosefo Apikotoa, Adam Coleman, Sione Vailanu, Sonatane Takulua, Patrick Pellegrini, Afusipa Taumoepeau.
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