Rugby World Cup Pool B: South Africa ring changes for Samoa test
Shellshocked South Africa put their 100 per cent record against Samoa on the line, seeking a response from their giant-killing by Japan in the Rugby World Cup Pool B opener, and Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer is making eight big changes to his XV as a result.
Coral believe the shaken Southern Hemisphere heavyweights’ recovery starts here, with South Africa firm odds-on 1/16 favourites for victory at Villa Park. Centre Jean de Villiers has been retained as captain, but that decision has attracted criticism back home.
Samoa have lost all eight of their previous spars with the Springboks, so are 10/1 outsiders to follow Japanese footsteps by upsetting them. The handicap market is set at 19 points, and if punters give South Africa that deficit to overturn then there’s a more attractive price at evens.
Adriaan Strauss will win his 50th Springboks cap, and coach Meyer hailed the hooker. “Adriaan is not only a great ambassador for South Africa and the Springboks, but also someone who isn’t shy to put in the dirty work without saying too much.”
With anytime tryscorer odds of 5/2, Strauss could well be a worth a wager to mark this occasion by crossing after doing so last time out showing strong resilience. Fellow hooker Duane Vermeulen, meanwhile, takes the number eight jersey. His strong ball-carrying and effectiveness from the line-out.
Meyer has moved de Villiers to outside centre and brought in new half backs Handre Pollard and Fourie du Preez. Eben Etzebeth will be returning to the starting line-up alongside Strauss and Vermeulen, while Willie le Roux, JP Pieterson (6/1 to cross first) and Damian de Allende to make up the back line.
Samoa’s main threats are Tim Nanai-Williams, also 5/2 for a try in the anytime market, and kicker Ken Pisi, whose penalties were the difference between the Pacific Islanders and the USA in a 25-16 victory.
The Springboks shall be taking this test very seriously, according to Meyer. “Four years ago in the World Cup pool match in New Zealand, the Samoans pushed the Boks close and we’re expecting more of the same this weekend,” he said. “It will be brutally physical and we have to be 100 per cent focused and ready.”
Coral’s top tip: Until we see how South Africa respond, talking up margins of victory isn’t an option, so take evens for them to win with that 19-point handicap.