Tonga a test for second stringers

Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

With their heads probably still in the clouds following their 36-0 demolition of England last Friday, the Springboks' game tomorrow against Tonga will bring them firmly back to earth.

Opting to stick to his pre-World Cup plan of resting key players after the clashes against Samoa and England, coach Jake White is fielding a team with the distinctive look of a B-side for this weekend's game.

Missing are captain John Smit along with fellow loose forwards Os du Randt, Victor Matfield, Juan Smith and Schalk Burger - who is still serving a two-match suspension - while in the backline scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, Butch James, Bryan Habana and fullback Percy Montgomery are all given a much-needed rest.

White, along with his coaching staff, knew long before the tournament started what his starting line-ups would be for the pool matches.

Unfortunately, what he probably didn't bank on, was minnows Tonga putting one over their South Pacific rivals Samoa last weekend.

Having only beaten Samoa once in the past six years, Tonga were up for the occasion in Montpellier, France, as they ran out 19-15 winners .

Though the Boks should possess too much firepower for the tiny, rugby-loving nation of Tonga, White is covering his bases by including a few of his big guns on the bench just in case things don't go to plan during the match.

"We have put experienced players on the bench such as John [Smit], Victor [Matfield] and Percy [Montgomery] to help the others who are preparing for the match and to help bring stability and confidence to them," White was quoted saying earlier in the week.

Notorious for their big hits and passion, the Tongans - minus Hale Tope who was red-carded at the weekend - will test the Boks in the early parts of the game, but with their experience and composure, White's team should run out comfortable winners and take one more step towards lifting the Webb Ellis trophy on October 20.

lKickoff for the match is at 2pm and the game will be televised live on M-Net and SABC2.