Tonga have trekked the length of France for their latest attempt to upset the odds in World Cup Pool A. The Sea Eagles had already seen off the USA when last Sunday they ended a seven-year losing streak against Samoa in Montpellier. Today in Lens, they will be all out to put the skids under a mainly second-string South Africa.
Nili Latu, the Tonga captain, and Finau Maka have been in bruising form so far as two-thirds of one of the tournament's most watchable back rows. They will have to do without Hale T-Pole, however, after he got a red card and a ban in the 19-15 defeat of the Samoans. T-Pole is replaced by Viliame Vaki in one of four changes including the introduction at hooker of Aleki Lutui, who has scored the odd valuable try for Worcester in his time.
Another face familiar to Premiership followers is Epi Taione, much-loved at Newcastle but whose stay at Sale ended in 2006 with an 18-week suspension for biting an opponent.
"We've had a talk about discipline, but we won't be telling our players to back off," Ellis Meachen, Tonga's assistant coach, said.
The Springboks have had a bigger shake-up after the 36-0 thrashing of England, with only four players retained in the starting line-up. They will be led by the 31-year-old Bob Skinstad, who resumed his top-level career after stints of sixth-division English club rugby with Richmond and presenting on Sky Sports.
Tonga will have a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals when they play their final pool match next Friday against England. "Breaking into the world's top 10 ranked teams is probably our No 1 target," Latu said. "A draw or a win against South Africa would crack it."
South Africa (v Tonga, Stade Félix-Bollaert, Lens, today, 1.0pm BST): South Africa: R Pienaar; A Willemse, W Olivier, W Julies, J P Pietersen; A Pretorius, R Januarie; G Steenkamp, G Botha, C J van der Linde, B Botha, A van den Berg, W van Heerden, D Rossouw, B Skinstad (capt). Replacements: J Smit, BJ Botha, V Matfield, J Smith, B Habana, F Steyn, P Montgomery.
Tonga: V Lilo; T Tu'ifua, S Hufanga, E Taione, J Vaka; P Hola, S Tu'ipulotu; S Tonga'uiha, A Lutui, K Pulu, P Hehea, 'E Kauhenga, V Vaki, N Latu (capt), F Maka. Replacements: E Taukafa, T Filise, I Afeaki, L Filipine, S Havea, I Tupou, A Havili.
Referee: W Barnes (England).Reuse content