October 7, 2015
Eagles Lose to South Africa After Springbok Second Half Surge
Photo: South African Rugby
South Africa v United States, Pool B, The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London.
The Rugby World Cup is a marathon where the entire squad needs to be utilized to keep the players fresh and performing well. With a short turnaround coming up against Japan on Sunday and a perceived match where South Africa was a likely winner, the Eagles squad was comprised mainly of players who have had the least amount of playing time.Not only would this develop players, but it would allow for the strongest possible side to play against Japan.
Critics of this selection will immediately indicate that the United States should have played its strongest side to see how the team has progressed. In addition, it is a the Rugby World Cup.
I happen to agree with the coaching decision to target Japan as a possible win. The team did beat Japan in the Pacific Nations Cup.
The USA had the first opportunity to score three minutes into the match, however Folau Niua’s long penalty kick was missed.
The initial scoring honors went to South Africa when a lineout won, resulted in a Damian DeAllende #12 try. Handre Pollard converted for a 7-0 lead (8′)
The Eagles would have another opportunity soon later, but this time Niku Kruger’s penalty kick hit the left post. (14′)
The crowd was quieted 21 minutes into the match when a Springbok high ball resulted in a mid air collision by the USA fullback, Blaine Scully and Springbok wing, Bryan Habana. The players were attended to and a minute later needed to leave the field for a concussion protoc0l. In the interim Chris Wyles and Jan Serfontein entered the match for the above players. Within five minutes they would return.
Before they did return, the Springboks had an apparent try go to the TMO. It revealed that Niku Kruger, had a hand under the ball and thus the ball was not touched down. It certainly is a key defensive play.
That would delay the inevitable, as South Africa then had three consecutive 5 meter scrums. They all eventually resulted in a collapsed scrum and for the later, a penalty try was awarded. Pollard converted for a 14-0 lead.
Just prior to the end of the half, Blaine Scully, while deep in defense, was able to pick up the ball and scamper to mid field. Shortly later the Eagles took advantage of a penalty for not rolling away and kicked for territory. They won the lineout, but after six phases the attack ended 10 meters from in goal.
The Eagles responded to South African pressure during the first half of the match and were down 14-0 at halftime, a very respectable result.
During the first half, USA strengths included winning their lineouts and scrums. The later still was an issue, as the scrum wins were often after they had to play off their back foot. This was the result of the heavier and very experienced Springbok pack. They also played good defense and had a few good attacks. This creased a positive feeling in entering the second half.
The second half began quickly for South Africa when a Du Preez offload to Habana resulted in a try. (41′) The try went to the TMO to see if the pass went forward, but it was inconclusive and thus, ruled a try. Pollard converted for the third time. (21-0)
The Eagles had an early attempt to attack with multiple phases. It ended with a Thompson offload to Test who went into touch. This resulted in a Springbok lineout and another attack. The Eagles were penalized and South Africa elected a 5 meter scrum. Number 8, Du Plessis, picked for a try. This time the conversion was missed. (26-0, 47′)
The floodgates were now open for a tiring USA side. Another 5 meter lineout transitioned to a maul and Louw plowed in goal. Pollard converted again. (33-0, 50′)
Bryan Habana would had two more tries within two minutes of each other and Morne Steyn, South Africa’s top scorer in the 2011 World Cup converted both. (47-0, 57′ & 59′). With Habanna’s hat trick, he tied Jonah Lomu with 15 World Cup tries.
Louw would add a second try from what seemed to be a signature attacking Springbok strategy of winning a lineout and transitioning to a maul for a try. Steyn missed the conversion. (69′)
Five minutes later Jesse Kriel #13, added another try after a scrum. Steyn missed again. (57-0)
The Eagles had one final attack with Joe Taufete’e breaking the defense and the Eagles having 12 phases while attacking. Somehow the ball popped loose and Springbok wing, Mvovo was able to kick the ball upfield on the ground and raced in for the last try. (82′) Steyn then converted. The final was 64-0 to South Africa over the Eagles.
During the second half, a close match was turned into a large defeat for the USA. Compared with two first half tries, in the second half eight additional tries were scored. In much of the second half the Eagles had to defend and this tired the players.
South Africa is one of the top rugby countries in the world. Its team is a seasoned one consisting of professional players. They recognized opportunites and then took advantage. They also exhibited speed to the breakdowns and were a forbidable pack. The final result was not unexpected.
The USA team on the other hand, had several professional players, while others are looking for those opportunities.
The USA will play their last Rugby World Cup match this Sunday at 3pm ET against Japan. It will be televised by Universal Sports.
Japan has had an excellent tournament and currently has won two of their three Pool matches. They are still in contention to advance to the Quarterfinals, however that depends on Scotland beating Samoa and Japan winning against the United States. They also have the motivation of a third place Pool finish with a win.
Japan seemingly made rugby history with an initial Pool win against South Africa, a huge upset. This occurred during no time with a game ending try.
The USA has every reason to be positive in looking toward their match with Japan. Earlier this Summer, they beat Japan in a Pacific Nations Cup match. They also entered the World Cup with two wins against Canada and close losses to both Samoa and the Harlequins with another competitive loss against Tonga.
The Eagles remain confident and this is emphasized by their coaches. They feel that they will leave the World Cup with a win Sunday. I feel that it will be a close match and think the Eagles will win despite Japan being favored.
There are many positives for the Eagles the last few months. Not only have the Eagles had the chance to play together for extended periods of time against excellent competition, but they have had some success with results and in player development. While some of the sevens players will return to preparing for the World Rugby Sevens Series and the Olympics, other will go back to their clubs. Some will continue to play professionally, while others may have earned contracts as a result of their play. If only a professional league were an option now. It is on the radar. This would help accelerate rugby ‘s development in the USA.
There is a bright future for the USA.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere; Assistant Referee: Nigel Owens, Mike Fraser; TV Match Official: George Ayoub
South Africa Ranked 4th: HC Heyneke Meyer Starters: 1. Tendai Mtawarira 2. Bismarck Du Plessis 3. Frans Malherbe 4. Eben Etzebeth 5. Lodewyk De Jager 6. Francois Louw 7. Schalk Burger 8. Duane Vermeulen 9. Fourie Du Preez (c) 10. Handre Pollard 11. Lwazi Mvovo 12. Damian De Allende 13. Jesse Kriel 14. Bryan Habana 15. Willie Le Roux Replacements: 16. Schalk Brits 17. Trevor Nyakane 18. Coenie Oosthuizen 19. Pieter-Steph Du Toit 20. Willem Alberts 21. Rudy Paige 22. Morne Steyn 23. Jan Serfontein
United States Ranked 16th: HC Mike Tolkin Starters: 1 Oli Kilifi 2 Phil Thiel 3 Chris Baumann 4 Louis Stanfill 5 Matthew Trouville 6 Danny Barrett 7 John Quill 8 Samu Manoa (c) 9 Niku Kruger 10 Shalom Suniula 11 Zach Test 12 Andrew Suniula 13 Folau Niua 14 Brett Thompson 15 Blaine Scully Replacements: 16 Joe Taufetee 17 Zach Fenoglio 18 Mate Moeakiola 19 Titi Lamositele 20 Cam Dolan 21 Al McFarland 22 Mike Petri 23 Chris Wyles