BIRMINGHAM, 26 Sept – South Africa’s 46-6 Pool B victory against Samoa helped heal the emotional wounds of their defeat by Japan but left the Springboks with battered and bruised bodies.
"How long is the press conference?" coach Heyneke Meyer joked when asked to offer an update on the walking wounded, which included the impressive Eben Etzebeth and captain Jean de Villiers, who almost missed the tournament with a fractured jaw.
"I’m not sure because a lot of guys have gone for X-rays," he added.
"Jean is one of them. There are five or six other players with injuries. It’s his other jaw. We just hope and pray that he’s right. There’s a long list."
It looked like being another long and difficult afternoon for the Springboks when Mike Stanley sent over two penalties to give Samoa an early 6-3 lead.
But the Samoa fly-half handed South Africa the initiative in the 15th minute when his misjudged pass was picked off by JP Pietersen (pictured above), who raced away to score the first of his three tries.
Young fly-half Handre Pollard converted four first-half penalties before Schalk Burger, Schalk Brits and Bryan Habana went over to confirm a bonus-point win.
Habana's try took his World Cup total to 11 and moved him to within striking distance of Jonah Lomu's all-time record of 15.
Foundation for success
But there was no doubt Pietersen’s opener laid the foundation for the success.
"It is always special scoring a try for your country, but a hat-trick is very special and I'll remember it for ever," said the wing.
"We had to win, if we didn't win today it we would have been in a very difficult situation to qualify for the quarter-finals.
"We were open about it all week, on the situation that we were in, and the only way to get out of the situation was ourselves. We told ourselves that if we win our remaining three games then we will definitely qualify."
This result does not have a huge impact on Samoa’s hopes of qualifying, however, with Japan and Scotland still likely to be their key fixtures.
Stephen Betham’s side showed signs of promise in the opening stages. And they were on the front foot before Pietersen’s interception try punctured any growing momentum.
"That intercept in the first half cost us for the whole game," said their captain, Ofisa Treviranus.
"If that intercept hadn't gone, the game was really tough, and we would have had a really tight game. After that intercept, some of the boys were heads down."
Samoa's heads were down but they do not consider themselves out of contention in Pool B.
Coach Betham said: "At the moment I think our pool is still wide pen. It's anyone's game. We lost today but we still have a chance."