One foot in the World Cup quarters … Springboks secure scrappy bonus-point win against Tonga

South Africa's Eben Etzebeth attempts to tackle Tonga's Tanginoa Halaifonua during their Rugby World Cup clash at Orange Velodrome in Marseille on Sunday night. Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

South Africa's Eben Etzebeth attempts to tackle Tonga's Tanginoa Halaifonua during their Rugby World Cup clash at Orange Velodrome in Marseille on Sunday night. Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Published Oct 1, 2023


The Springboks managed to secure five vital points from their clash with Tonga on Sunday after winning 49-18 in their final Pool B clash at the Rugby World Cup.

But now an anxious week awaits to see if they will top the group or end second to go through to the quarter-finals when Ireland and Scotland play their last match this coming weekend.

South Africa will enjoy a weekend of rest should they make the knock-out stages.

It was a frustrating 80 minutes of rugby as the reigning world champions made error upon error and could not really find their rhythm in the game. And that illness of not converting opportunities in the red zone reared its head again. The Boks will have to fix that should they make the play-offs.

The prediction was always a win for the Springboks, but the Pacific Islanders made them work for this victory. They never went away and kept throwing everything at the South Africans.

Tonga also became the first team to score more than two tries in a World Cup match against the Boks since New Zealand in the opening group of 2019's tournament.

Although South Africa defended well this tournament - they've only conceded four tries so far - it's their accuracy in general play and some poor discipline that kept them from gaining momentum.

The Tongans dominated the opening moments, and after 15 minutes, the Boks' had their poorest start to the tournament. They haven't started a match this off the pace since they were outclassed by the All Blacks in Auckland earlier this year.

It all started with a missed take from the kickoff and a missed tackle on hard-carrying Tonga prop Ben Tameifuna. And after the momentum from the kickoff, Springbok centre Andre Esterhuizen was caught offside and their opponents kicked the points to open their account.

The Tongans did well initially in slowing the game down, and not allowing the Boks their way. It was frustrating as the world champions went in search of that bonus-point early on.

It took them nearly 50 minutes of game time to score that fourth try after scrumhalf Cobus Reinach opened the scoring early after a quick-tap penalty where he caught his opponents napping.

By the time loose forward Kwagga Smith scored the seventh try, the Boks had the game in the bag, but they were made to work very hard for the victory.

Some good news for Bok supporters was that the goal-kickers slotted all seven conversions as the returning Handre Pollard kicked four, while replacement flyhalf Manie Libbok slotted three.

Pollard's attacking play was not up to standard, though, and the Boks looked more threatening when Libbok came on.

While there were some good scrums, Tonga stood their man against the South Africans, and they defended the maul really well. A couple of lost lineouts towards the end won't be too much of a concern for the Springboks as Deon Fourie put in a good shift as hooker, with Bongi Mbonambi resting.

There will be some sore bodies this week and a bit of a worry about winger Makazole Mapimpi who took a knock to the head after a head-on collision in a tackle with Tonga's Augustine Pulu.

But the break will be vital for the Boks' recovery as they wait for the final results of the Pool B clashes this weekend.


South Africa 49 — Tries: Cobus Reinach, Canan Moodie, Deon Fourie, Jesse Kriel, Willie le Roux, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith. Conversions: Handre Pollard (4), Manie Libbok (3).

Tonga 18 — Tries: Ben Tameifuna, Fine Inisi, Patrick Pellegrini. Penalty: William Havili


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