Lam left with sour taste

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The Independent Online
TIM GLOVER

reports from Johannesburg

South Africa 42 Western Samoa 14

Pat Lam, the captain of Western Samoa, was asked after the game if it was true that he had been bitten by a Springbok and that his players had been subjected to racist comments during the quarter-final at Ellis Park. Lam twice looked at Bryan Williams, Samoa's technical adviser, for guidance and Williams advised him to keep quiet. "No comment," the captain said. It was the silence of the Lam that was deafening.

He had prompted the question by remarking that some of the comments of Joost van der Westhuizen, the Springboks' scrum-half, were "unprintable". Jim Fleming, the Scottish referee, said he was not aware of any such incidents and Francois Pienaar, the South Africa captain, laughed at the very thought. "It's ridiculous," he said.

The Springboks earned a semi-final place against France but after another bruising, explosive match they were left counting the casualties. The most serious is Andre Joubert, their talented full-back, who broke a bone in his left hand. As England discovered, when you play Western Samoa keep the replacements warm and primed.

When Chester Williams, recalled to the team in place of the suspended Pieter Hendriks, scored the first of his four tries, Joubert was late tackled by Mike Umaga. Umaga repeated the punishment on Van der Westhuizen and the crowd rose against him. They yelled for his dismissal and booed and jeered him every time he touched the ball. Rugby World Cup directors subsequently cited Umaga for dangerous tackling and a disciplinary hearing by Sir Ewart Bell, the chairman of Rugby World Cup Ltd, will take place today.

All this appeared to have an effect on Fleming who, admittedly in difficult circumstances, proceeded to make a number of errors of judgement, nearly all of them in favour of the host country. The Springboks scored six tries and three of them were dubious.

Williams took a forward pass for his second try and did not appear to ground the ball for his fourth. In addition, Fleming awarded a penalty to the Springboks, from which Rossouw scored, for a late/dangerous tackle by Falaniko on Van der Westhuizen. It was neither late nor dangerous, although it was unarguably hard. One of Western Samoa's hallmarks is the strength of their tackling, and if they are penalised for it they have no chance.

Fleming awarded South Africa 18 penalties, Western Samoa eight. Bryan Williams conceded that Umaga was lucky to stay on the field, but added: "I was disappointed with the referee. This is the third time we've had Mr Fleming and he seems to enjoy making whipping boys out of my team."

It was noticeable during the match that the crowd's paranoia was being fed by replays on the giant screen at Ellis Park of virtually every incident in which a Samoan was deemed to have committed an offence. When the Springboks broke the law there was no replay. The final indignity for Lam came at the press conference where he was forced to wear the blazer of an IMG official to cover up a logo on his tracksuit.

The Springboks move on to Durban to meet the French in what the coach, Kitch Christie, described as the biggest match in South Africa's history. "We are still learning, still progressing," Christie said. Morne du Plessis, the manager, referring to the brawl against Canada in Port Elizabeth, said: "We were in the doldrums after that. I honestly didn't think there was any way out of it. It's been a tough week."

The Samoans returned home today to an uncertain future. Williams fears he could lose players to rugby league, but Dr Louis Luyt, the president of the South African Rugby Football Union, assured the Samoans of his considerable support. "I will not let the league boys win," Luyt said.

SOUTH AFRICA: A Joubert (Natal); G Johnson (Transvaal), C Scholtz (Transvaal), J Mulder (Transvaal) , C Williams (Western Province); H le Roux (Transvaal), J van der Westhuizen (N Transvaal); P du Randt (Free State), C Rossouw (Transvaal), B Swart (Transvaal), K Wiese (Transvaal), M Andrews (Natal), F Pienaar (Transvaal,capt), R Straeuli (Transvaal), R Kruger, (N Transvaal). Replacements: B Venter (Free State) for Joubert, 18; A Richter (N Transvaal) for Kruger, 46; K Otto (N Transvaal) for Andrews, 70; N Drotske (Free State) for Wiese, 76).

WESTERN SAMOA: M Umaga (Wellington); B Lima (Marist), T Vaega (Moataa), T Fa'amasino (Auckland), G Harder (Auckland); F Sini (Marist), T Nu'uali'itia (Auckland); M Mika (Otago), T Leiasamaivao (Moataa), G Latu (Vaimoso), S Lemanea (SCOPA), L Falaniko (Marist), S Tatupu (Ponsonby), P Lam (Auckland), P-J Paramor (Manurewa). Replacements: F Tuilagi (Marist) for Harder, 45; P Fatialofa (Manurewa) for Latu, 64; B Reidy (Marist) for Mika, 74; S Viafale (Marist) for Paramor, 75.

Referee: J Fleming (Scotland).

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