Samoa go out with a bang on Hougaard

South Africa 60 Samoa 10
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It takes some believing, but Derick Hougaard is in one piece. More miraculously still, the match coroner has taken a look at the lightweight outside-half from South Africa's highveld and declared him still alive. Hougaard will have a headache, though; plus a rib ache, a chest ache and an all-over body ache.

When a player is tackled by Brian Lima, nicknamed "The Chiropractor" because he rearranges bones, he stays tackled - not for seconds, or minutes, but for days. "I'm just glad I'm breathing," Hougaard muttered through gritted teeth.

South Africa had more or less won this game, and guaranteed themselves a place in the last eight, before the new Springbok playmaker took an unsympathetic high pass from his half-back partner, Joost van der Westhuizen, in open field.

When the ball arrived with Lima attached, it was one of those "time gentlemen please, that's all for tonight" moments. Hougaard went flying backwards like a spent shotgun cartridge, and stayed down for some considerable time while the mayhem continued around him.

Amateur bookmakers were offering 100-1 against Hougaard returning to the fray, but in a remarkable display of cussed bravery, seasoned with a few twists of masochism, he opted to continue. He received one more pass - unsurprisingly, he put boot to ball before Lima could get within 20 metres of him - and then retired to the safety of the bench as Louis Koen trotted on for the last rites. It was impossible to eavesdrop on the exchange between the two, but Hougaard may well have adopted the "see you in hospital" approach.

Koen did not receive a calling card from the celebrated Samoan centre; he even survived the apparently drunken attentions of a supporter as he lined up his conversion of Neil de Kock's last-second try in the right corner.

The supporter hurled himself at the kicking tee as Koen made contact, but the ball flew straight and true. As for the miscreant... well, he was taken off on a stretcher. There is a moral there somewhere. For all his trauma, Hougaard at least managed to walk off.

As a result of the one-man pitch invasion, the Australian Rugby Union launched an immediate inquiry into security at the Suncorp Stadium. "It was a very serious incident," said Strath Gordon, an ARU spokesman. "Security is paramount, and we will convene a top-level meeting to investigate and review all the circumstances."

The offender, who appeared to catch Koen's boot in his face, was being treated in Royal Brisbane Hospital.

There was never any great likelihood of a tired Samoan team catching fire as they had against England six days previously, and when the Springbok forwards tore into them from the kick-off, they looked terribly vulnerable.

Christo Bezuidenhout was unremittingly severe on poor Jeremy Tomuli at the set-piece, and the islanders had no answer to Bakkies Botha and Juan Smith at the line-out. Joe van Niekerk scored a try inside 90 seconds, Jorrie Muller capitalised on a big overlap after 12 minutes and Hougaard dropped a goal. The Boks ended the first quarter 17-3 up.

Yet the lop-sided result does not tell the whole story. Not quite. South Africa's third try was a bad joke - Hougaard lost control of the ball in the in-goal area after a kick-and-chase race with Semo Sititi, only to be awarded the score by the video official - and although the Samoans were 28 points adrift at the break, the third quarter was as compelling as anything seen in Melbourne last weekend.

Sititi, the No 8, was nothing short of astonishing in the second period; imagine a mix of Mervyn Davies and Zinzan Brooke, and you are somewhere close. Tanner Vili, the chrome-domed full-back who spent a fair chunk of the contest at centre, was not too shabby, either.

The Samoans claimed a try on 48 minutes when Opeta Palepoi managed a second-rower's stretch in the left corner after exhilarating work from Lome Fa'atau and Maurie Fa'asavalu; Jonathan Meredith and Romia Ropati went close; Sailosi Tagicakibau fouled up a clear opportunity when he cut back inside with players spare on the right. Had Chris White, the referee, not given the Boks some breathing space by allowing Corne Krige to warn his men about repeated acts of ball-killing, the game may have developed into a contest.

As it turned out, Ashwin Willemse quelled the uprising with a late try that ushered in a cruel rush of 19 points in stoppage time. The last Springbok score came directly from a handling error by Sititi, which merely emphasised the lack of justice in the world. Never mind. It will take more than one bad defeat to tarnish these golden Samoans.

South Africa 60 Samoa 10

Tries: Van Niekerk, Muller, Hougaard, Smith, Willemse, Fourie, Van der Westhuyzen, De Kock; Try: Palepoi
Cons: Hougaard 5, Koen 2; Con: Va'a
Pen: Hougaard; Pen: Va'a
Drop: Hougaard

Half-time: 31-3 Attendance: 50,000

Samoa: T Vili; L Fa'atau R Ropati (D Rasmussen, 67), B Lima, S Tagicakibau; E Va'a (D Feanuati, 61), S So'oialo (D Tyrell, 80); K Lealamanue, J Meredith, J Tomuli (T Leopolu, 40), O Palepoi (D Tuiavi'i, 67), L Lafaiali'i, P Poulus (K Viliamu, 51), S Sititi (capt), M Fa'asavalu.

South Africa: J van der Westhuyzen; A Willemse, J Muller, D W Barry (J Fourie, 78), T Delport; D Hougaard (L Koen, 74), J van der Westhuizen (N de Kock, 80); C Bezuidenhoudt (J Smit, 80), J Smit (D Coetzee, 59), F Rautenbach (R Bands, 59), B Botha, V Matfield, C Krige (capt; S Burger, 65), J Smith, J van Niekerk (D Rossouw, 40).

Referee: C White (England).