Williams springs into action

Rugby Union: World Cup; Samoan hopes go west as South Africa's recalled wing claims four tries to set up a semi-final date with France; South Africa42W Samoa14.
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The Independent Online
IT TOOK just 16 minutes of this World Cup quarter-final yesterday for South Africa to witness the moment it had been waiting for. The ball emerged from a ruck, the captain Francois Pienaar fed Joost van der Westhuizen and the three-quarters were off. Van der Westhuizen passed to Scholtz, Scholtz to Joubert, Joubert to Chester Williams and Williams was over in the corner. If the Springboks needed a hero to put the shame of last weekend's pugilistic activity behind them, then Chester Williams was the man.

Called into the squad last week only because of the suspension of Pieter Hendriks, the only black player in the Springbok team sent the national side charging through to a semi-final against.

Williams didn't stop there, and long before he had touched down his fourth and final try of the day, Ellis Park was chanting his name. His tries were all in the finishing rather than the creating, but he gave the South African side just what it required. After the disappointment of their performance against Romania and the dishonour of the brawl with Canada, the Springboks rediscovered yesterday most of the brilliance with which they sent Australia reeling in the tournament's opening game.

Only two months ago, the Samoans had been thrashed 60-8 by the Springboks. If there was no such disparity between the sides yesterday, the Samoans never threatened to pull off a surprise. Indeed, their hard-hitting backfired when Mike Umaga, the full-back, took out Andre Joubert and then Van der Westhuizen with late tackles and soon the Samoans were being booed as well as beaten.

After the game, Pienaar laid down an invitation for Rugby World Cup to cite the offending Samoan and Sir Ewart Bell, the RWC chairman, said in reply that there would be no citing overnight. However, the Springboks did not emerge wholly innocent as Pat Lam, the Samoan captain, was allegedly bitten late in the game and there were suggestions that his team had been the victims of racial abuse. Lam said that the Springbok scrum-half van der Westhuizen used "unprintable language" against his players.

The South Africans, though, have plenty of their own wounds to nurse. Joubert was diagnosed to have broken a bone in his left hand, Ruben Kruger received a knock to a previously damaged shoulder and Mark Andrews went off with a chest problem. Though the medical report will be a worry for Saturday's semi-final, there was much to savour in yesterday's performance.

Van der Westhuizen's confidence and dynamism was hugely influential, Kruger, before he went off, was the superior of the much-vaunted Junior Paramore in the loose, and in Jobus Wiese South Africa appear to have found a jumper to match the impressive Andrews in the line-out. Even the suspension of James Dalton appeared to be a blessing in disguise as Chris Rossouw, who took his place in the team, has a better line out throw and weighed in with a try from a tap penalty.

Roussow's try came just before half-time, by which time Williams had already scored two. Before his first, South Africa had taken control of the game but only had a single penalty from Gavin Johnson to show for it. Johnson had a mixed day with his kicking, but this did not matter as South Africa built up a head of steam. Williams's second came after good work from Kruger and Rossouw, and with Rossouw's try and a penalty and a conversion from Johnson, South Africa were 23-0 up at half-time.

The Springboks kept up the pace after the restart and, within 10 minutes, had scored two more tries - Williams finishing off a three-quarter move and Andrews touching down his own line-out catch - to put the outcome beyond doubt.

Only when they were out of the game did the Samoans come to life. They threw the ball around with their familiar abandon and scored two consolation tries. The Springboks, by this stage, were losing interest at the rate they were losing wounded players but Williams was not for stopping. With four minutes left, he popped up at scrum-half behind a ruck and plunged over to collect his fourth try.

It rounded off a triumphant entrance to the World Cup and guaranteed that, behind Nelson Mandela, there is surely no man more popular in South Africa this morning. But then again, if it wasn't for Mandela, we might not have heard of Williams in the first place.

South Africa: A Joubert (Natal); G Johnson (Transvaal), J Mulder (Transvaal), C Scholtz (Transvaal), C Williams (Western Province); H Le Roux (Transvaal), J Van der Westhuizen (Northern Transvaal); P Du Randt (Free State), C Rossouw (Transvaal), B Swart (Transvaal), K Viese (Transvaal), M Andrews (Natal), F Pienaar (Transvaal, Capt.), R Kruger (Northern Transvaal), R Straeuli (Transvaal). Replacements: B Venter (Orange Free State) for Joubert, h-t; A Richter (Northern Transvaal) for Kruger, 45.

Western Samoa: M Umaga (Wellington); B Lima (Marist), T Vaga (Moataa), T Fa'amasino (Auckland), G Harder (Auckland); F Sini (Marist), T Nu'uali'tia (Auckland); M Mika (Otaga), T Leiasamaivao (Moataa), G Latu (Vaimomoso), S Lemamea (Scopa), L Falaniko (Marist), S Tatupu (Auckland), J Paramore (Manurewa), P Lam (Auckland, Capt). Replacement: F Tuilangi (Marist) for Harder 44.

Referee: J Fleming (Scotland)

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