The Springboks all but guaranteed their place in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals – barring a mathematical miracle for Scotland – by edging their way to a 49-18 victory (halftime 21-8) over a feisty Tonga on a balmy evening at the Stade de Marseille on Sunday night.
The Boks’ 31-point margin of victory – allied to a bonus point for scoring four tries – means that for Scotland and Ireland to go through at the Boks’ expense, the former needs to beat the latter by 21 points while Ireland score four tries in defeat.
In that scenario all three teams would have 15 log points; Scotland would progress with the best points difference, while Ireland would oust the Boks by virtue of having won the head-to-head match.
As Scotland have lost their last seven matches against their celtic rivals it is preposterous to think that they might now achieve such a result after the Boks eventually took care of business by claiming the bonus point in the 49th minute as they racked up seven tries in total.
But it was not easy in front of a Tonga-favouring crowd of 60 387. The ghosts of Lens haunted the opening quarter as Tonga dominated possession to recall the nail-biting affair of the 2007 tournament when the Boks escaped by the skin of their teeth with a 30-25 victory.
The Pacific Islanders opened the scoring with a penalty by flyhalf William Havili in the third minute after a shaky start by the Boks who missed the kick off to set an unhappy tone.
The Boks hit back in the fifth minute from their only visit to the Tongan 22 in the opening quarter, when the ever alert scrumhalf Cobus Reinach took a quick tap at a five-metre penalty and ran in in the corner.
Their next visit was only 15 minutes later after repeated Tongan attacks from a succession of penalties had been repulsed. Centre Andre Esterhuizen made one of several tackle busting runs to give field position but a try for centre Canan Moodie owed much to good fortune. Handre Pollard’s pass bounced forward off the shoulder of prop Vincent Koch for Moodie to collect the loose ball and elegantly swerve past the last line of defence.
The Boks were now beginning to assert a measure of control and Deon Fourie claimed a second Springbok try at the back of a driven maul as the Tongan pack began to falter. Pollard converted all three – two from wide out on the right – to give the Boks a 21-3 lead before Tonga were let back into the game.
A penalty for offside as a Tongan attack was broken up by offensive defence on halfway was turned into a lineout five metres out and after half a dozen phases 151kg prop Ben Tameifuna flopped over the line from barely a metre.
The more dynamic Jesse Kriel – on as a replacement for wing Makazole Mapimpi following a head clash in which Tongan scrumhalf Augustine Pulu was lucky to escape a yellow card – drove in from close range after a succession of drives had exhausted Tonga’s defence.
Tongan right wing Fini Inese crossed in the corner from a long looping pass after repeated attempts to beat down the front door from more drives had failed.
The Boks responded in the left hand corner through Willie le Roux from Moodie’s pass after Manie Libbok – on for Pollard – had dislodged the ball in a tackle as Tonga tried to run out of defence.
Hooker replacement Marco van Staden added the sixth in similar style as the match entered the final quarter and the Boks three times looked on the verge of claiming a seventh – once through Esterhuizen and twice through wing Grant Williams – before a break out from their own half by replacement flyhalf Patrick Pellegrini ended in a third for Tonga.
The seventh finally arrived in the final minute when Kwagga Smith’s all action play was rewarded with a try under the cross bar. Libbok landed his third conversion from three attempts to round off a challenging but ultimately successful night.
Springboks 49 (21) – Tries: Cobus Reinach, Canan Moodie, Deon Fourie, Jesse Kriel, Willie le Roux, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith. Conversions: Handre Pollard (4), Manie Libbok (3)
Tonga 18 (8) – Tries: Ben Tameifuna, Fine Inisi, Patrick Pellegrini. Penalty goal: William Havili.
Munster Confirm Three New Signings
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.
Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.
Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.
Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.
Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.
Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.
Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.
The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.
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Key All Black announces sabbatical to play in Japan
All Blacks captain Sam Cane will take up a sabbatical option in his New Zealand Rugby (NZR) contract in 2024 to play a season for Suntory in Japan League One.
The 31-year-old, 95-Test loose forward will miss the 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season with the Chiefs, but will return to New Zealand in June to be available for selection to the All Blacks for the 2024 Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship campaign.
Cane, who is contracted to NZR through to the end of 2025, said he was looking forward to experiencing a new playing environment with Suntory and learning more about a new culture in Japan.
“When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time following the Rugby World Cup to try something new and also a great chance to continue to grow and learn in my rugby and life journey. I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs, but I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and the coaching group to have a successful 2024, and I’m really pleased to be able to return in time to put my best foot forward for selection in the All Blacks.”
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said:
“Sam’s decision to take a sabbatical in 2024 has our full support and we wish him and his family all the best for their time in Japan. There are very few players who have given as much as he has to the jerseys he’s worn in his career to date and it’s a mark of his commitment to the All Blacks that he will return and make himself available for the Test season.”
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan said:
“Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different. He is an exceptional player and influential leader who has been an integral part of the Gallagher Chiefs for many years. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they enjoy their time in Japan after a full-on year.”
Key All Black commits to Gallagher Chiefs until 2025
Dominant loose forward Luke Jacobson has extended his contract with the Gallagher Chiefs, Waikato and New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2025.
The 18-test All Black was a consistent starter for the Gallagher Chiefs this year and a key element of their outstanding DHL Super Rugby Pacific performances. He consequently went on to be named in the All Blacks squad to travel to France.
Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan is delighted to have Jacobson sticking around for another two seasons.
“Luke is an outstanding player; he’s a workhorse, a consistent performer and considered a real warrior within our group. Luke leads by example both on and off the field. He isnt one to waste words and prefers to let his actions speak for themself. In the absence of some senior players who have moved on, I have no doubt Luke will play an integral part providing the leadership and guidance our younger players will be looking for”.
Jacobson has impressed throughout his career, playing for the New Zealand U20s team twice and captaining them in his second season to win the 2017 U20 World Championship title. This aptitude for leadership has seen him pull on the Gallagher Chiefs captain’s armband on multiple occasions.
Waikato Rugby head coach Ross Filipo is excited about Luke extending his career with Waikato. “He is a great man and a great leader who continues to make huge contributions on and off the field and always represents the region with pride.”
Speaking on his signing Jacobson said: “I’m stoked to signing on with the Waikato, Chiefs and NZR for another two years. I love representing these teams and am very proud to be able to call myself a Waikato/Chiefs man and also and All black. I’m hungry to succeed with these teams and tick off a few unticked boxes.”
The 2024 Gallagher Chiefs squad will be named later this year ahead of assembling for pre-season training.