S. Africa, Scotland, Japan set for final fight
04 Oct 2015 - 10:09
Newcastle, UK: South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said he would stay "humble" after the Springboks took control of their World Cup group now set for a thrilling finale with Scotland and Japan.
South Africa completed a clinical 34-16 win over Scotland on Saturday while Japan pulled off a new upset, 26-5 over Samoa, to extend the race for quarter-final places from Pool B.
Only three points now separate the remaining contenders going into the the final games of the World Cup's most surprising pool.
Still numbed by seeing his side beaten 34-32 by Japan in their match, Meyer watched a drastically different performance against Scotland.
Handre Pollard kicked 19 points with deadly accuracy and Schalk Burger, JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana scored tries to break the hearts of a Scottish dominated 50,000 crowd at Newcastle.
Scotland staged a heroic second half comeback after trailing 20-3 at the break and twice hauled themselves to within seven points.
But each time Pollard denied them, landing a drop goal the first time and a 50-metre penalty the second time.
"We've already put this game behind us," Springbok coach Meyer said after the win that lifted his side to 11 points, one more than Scotland and three more than Japan.
"We're not there yet. We need to be humble. It was not a bad win but every game is important."
"We're at our best if we've been written off," added the Springbok coach who singled out Pollard for praise, saying: "He's still a youngster and I thought it was a total performance."
Meyer did complain about discipline after a match in which the Springboks conceded 11 penalties and had Jannie du Plessis sin-binned.
"Discipline is non-negotiable," Meyer said. "I'm going to be hard on players that can't keep their discipline because the pressure is going to get more and more and you can't play with 14 men. That's unacceptable."
The South Africans were vilified by their supporters and Meyer had to apologise to the nation after the Japan defeat.
With the pool positions still theoretically open, Meyer also said he was worried about the four day recovery time before South Africa take on the United States, the bottom-placed team in the group.
Japan have eight days before they take on the US XV.
Eddie Jones, Japan's coach, saw no reason to be humble after the Samoa victory.
If Japan beat the United States in the last Pool B game on October 11 they should be declared the team of the tournament, he claimed after Ayumu Goromaru again took a starring role kicking four penalties and a conversion to Akihito Yamada's try.
"We always said we came to this tournament with two targets.
"One, to be the team of the tournament and, secondly, to make the quarter-finals."
Jones said Japan could not control whether South Africa and Scotland win their last matches to take the quarter final places.
But he insisted: "If we win three games we will end up team of the tournament."
Scotland face a final outing against a Samoa side bristling to show they can do better than their solitary win so far against the United States.
Scotland coach Vern Cotter has however become frustrated by Scotland's cold starts, highlighted against South Africa where they slipped behind 20-3 before fighting back.
"We'll certainly be finding out why we don't seem to have the confidence to start well. We need to develop that confidence to go out and play ruthlessly at the start," he said.
"We were dominated in the contact area and we struggled to move forward so when you don't move forward in this game it becomes difficult. We were getting pushed behind the gain line."