World Cup proper begins against Fiji

Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

The Springboks' quest for World Cup glory moves up a gear on Sunday when they take on the Fijians in the third quarterfinal of the weekend.

Moving into the knockout stage after wins over Samoa (57-7), England (36-0), Tonga (30-25) and USA (64-15), coach Jake White must be quietly confident of progressing to the semifinals

Their forward pack - led by captain and hooker John Smit - will be looking to outmuscle the unpredictable South Pacific Islanders in the picturesque seaside town of Marseille.

Despite losing prop BJ Botha to a leg injury last weekend, the side has a settled look to it.

Upfront Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha combine together in the locking position and will be looking to stamp their authority over the Fijians from the opening whistle.

Behind the scrum, halfback Fourie du Preez needs to lift his game after an indifferent display last week against the USA.

Undoubtedly a key member in White's side, Du Preez needs to play his natural game and not get dragged into off-the-ball incidents which tended to happen against the Americans.

Fortunately winger Bryan Habana has recovered from a nasty gash to his cheek after a clash of heads last weekend.

Picking up a brace against the USA, Habana will strive to add to the six tries he has so far at the tournament, but in no way is underestimating the Fijians.

"The smaller nations play for 80 minutes now. Fiji have momentum after beating Wales and they have a great backline. We'll just have to stick to our guns," said a weary Habana earlier in the week.

For Fiji it is only the second time in their proud history they have reached the quarterfinals of a World Cup.

More suited to sevens rugby, the Fijians will take a lot out of their win over Wales.

Going in to the final five minutes four points in arrears, a try to Fijian prop Graham Dewes saw his team squeak home 38-34 in what will go down as the upset of the tournament so far.

Unfortunately though, Fiji will go into the match minus flyhalf Nicky Little - who managed to score 18 points against Wales - due to a serious leg injury suffered in the closing minutes of the game.