AUCKLAND, 28 Sept. – A battered and bruised Samoa will field the oldest line-up of any team at Rugby World Cup 2011 when they face defending champions South Africa in their must-win match on Friday.
Coach Titimaea Tafau, who made few changes in his three previous games, made just two when he named his XV on Wednesday for the Pool D clash at North Harbour Stadium.
David Lemi, who has not played a RWC match since 2007, comes in to replace Sailosi Tagicakibau at right wing, while Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu takes over at centre from Seilala Mapusua.
While many coaches have made wholesale changes between matches, Samoa have made only two, three and two changes respectively to their starting line-ups.
With an average of 30 years and 51 days, Samoa are fielding their oldest starting line-up ever in a RWC match.
It is also the oldest starting line-up by any team in a World Cup match since England’s in the RWC 2007 final (30 years 299 days).
For Sapolu, getting some rest is key to Samoa’s chances. “There are lot of guys with sore bodies at the moment. There are a lot of guys playing their fourth game, their fourth 80 minutes.
“There are a lot of people who are tired at the moment. I don’t think it (the challenge) is nerves. It is trying to get the energy level back up.”
Hoping for an upset
South Africa, who are leading Pool D, have already secured a quarter-final berth.
Wales and Samoa follow with 10 points apiece and the only chance the Samoans have of advancing is by upsetting the world champions.
Samoa, having lost all their six matches against the Springboks, are facing a monumental task but the underdogs will use that as motivation.
“This is our last chance and it will not be easy, but it will be a hell of a test,” said captain Mahonri Schwalger. “It will not be hard to motivate these guys, especially against the world champs. ”
Samoa lost 17-10 to Wales in a match Sapolu says took its toll mentally and contributed to his players looking flat in their subsequent 27-7 win over Fiji.
“We are still struggling with putting that game behind us.” said Sapolu.
He said there had been a lot of talk in his homeland about this Samoa squad being their best World Cup team, and insisted: “Well, let’s find out – there’s no better way than playing the world champions.”