Rugby World Cup
Preview: South Africa vs. Samoa - Can Springboks bounce back against confident Samoa?
Alex Perry
September 25, 2015
Pressure on South Africa after Japan defeat

Not many will have predicted Samoa would be above South Africa going into this Pool B clash at Villa Park, but Heyneke Meyer's Sprinboks will be looking to get back to winning ways following that last-gasp defeat to Japan that shook the rugby world. The Samoans began with a confidence-boosting victory over the US but they can only hope they, like Japan, catch South Africa on an off day.

Team news

Meyer has reacted to the Japan defeat by making eight changes to the starting XV that will run out at Villa Park on Saturday. Adriaan Strauss, who will win his 50th cap, starts at hooker, while Duane Vermeulen comes in at No.8. Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen and Damian de Allende return in the backline, with captain Jean de Villiers shifting to outside centre, while there are new halfbacks in Handre Pollard and Fourie du Preez. Eben Etzebeth also returns to the starting line-up. On the bench, Schalk Brits and Frans Malherbe make their first appearance on a Rugby World Cup teamsheet.

Samoa coach Stephen Betham has made four changes from the side that saw off the US. Mike Stanley wins his eighth Test cap, while the most-capped player, Census Johnston, returns. Hooker Motu Matu'u comes back in, as does TJ Ioane with Maurie Fa'asavalu ruled out with injury.

South Africa: Mtawariri, Strauss, du Plessis, Etzebeth, Matfield, Louw, Burger, Vermeulen, du Preez, Pollard, Habana, de Allende, de Villiers (captain), Pietersen, le Roux

Replacements: Brits, Nyakane, Malherbe, de Jager, Kolisi, Pienaar, Lambie, Kriel

Samoa: Taulafo, Matu'u, Johnston, Paulo, Tekori, Ioane, Lam, Treviranus (captain), Fotuali'i, Stanley, A. Tuilagi, Lee-Lo, Perez, Pisi, Nanai-Williams

Replacements: Avei, Afatia, Perenise, Levave, V. Tuilagi, Afemai, T. Pisi, G. Pisi

Heyneke Meyer must defend South Africa's honour
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Key head-to-head

South Africa need big players who can carry the team over the line on Saturday, and picking Duane Vermeulen at No.8 shows just that. Samoan counterpart Ofisa Treviranus has his work cut out if his team are to cause the second biggest shock of the Rugby World Cup.

Key stats

*This will be the fifth World Cup Test between these nations -- the Springboks have not faced any other side more often - and the eighth overall. South Africa have won them all, with an aggregate score of 385-93.

*South Africa are enduring their worst calendar year in the professional era having lost four of five Test matches in 2015. In a calendar year that has featured five or more internationals, their worst run of form came in 1965 when they won one and lost seven.

*South Africa's defeat to Japan meant they lost consecutive games at the Rugby World Cup for the first time, taking in their quarterfinal defeat to Australia in 2011. Samoa, meanwhile, have not won back-to-back games at a single edition of this tournament since 2003.

'Hurting' Springboks out to restore reputation
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Odds

Unibet are backing South Africa to rediscover the winning formula at 1/15, but if you fancy another upset then you can take Samoa at a tempting 7/1. In the player market, I like the 12/1 on Jesse Kriel to come on and finish off the try scoring for the Springboks.

Weather

A largely sunny day in Birmingham on Saturday, broken up only by scattered clouds throughout the afternoon. Temperatures hovering around the 15-degree Celcius mark come kick-off.

Prediction

Samoa will convince themselves that it is the best time to face a South Africa side at its lowest ebb -- but the counter-argument is the Springboks will be baying for blood. A comfortable victory by at least 10 for Meyer's side.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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