Rugby-Tonga make three changes for "great occasion" against South Africa


  • Rugby
  • Saturday, 30 Sep 2023

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2023 - Pool B - Ireland v Tonga - The Stade de la Beaujoire - Louis Fonteneau, Nantes, France - September 16, 2023 Tonga's Vaea Fifita in action REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

MARSEILLE, France - Semisi Paea will start at number eight in the place of suspended Vaea Fifita, while there are two new wings in Anzelo Tuitavuki and Fine Inisi for Tonga in their Rugby World Cup Pool B clash against South Africa in Marseille on Sunday.

Fifita received a four-game ban for his red card against Scotland last time out, a fixture in which Tonga were often on the disciplinary edge, something they will have to watch against the physical Springboks.

Paea forms a back row of the scrum with Tanginoa Halaifonua and Sione Havili, who has made the second most number of tackles (37) in the tournament so far behind Wales' Jac Morgan (44).

"Semisi Paea is a very exciting player with huge untapped potential. He is still young, you will see the best of him in two or three years from now," Tonga coach Toutai Kefu told reporters on Friday.

Halaleva Fifita and Sam Lousi are the lock pairing, while hooker Paula Ngauamo packs down with giant prop and captain Ben Tameifuna and Siegfried Fisi'ihoi.

Augustine Pulu and flyhalf William Havili are the halfback duo for the third game in a row, while Pita Ahki and Malakai Fekitoa are in the midfield. Fullback Salesi Piutau makes up the back three with wings Tuitavuki and Inisi.

"We have brought in two new wingers, just to freshen the backline a bit. They are two young guys with a huge amount of potential and they can bring some new energy," Kefu said.

Tonga have largely kept the same match-day 23 when possible through the tournament so far, with Kefu not looking to his wider squad in the first three games of the competition.

"Our mindset has always been to play our best possible team, we thought we would be more competitive and at times we have been, we just couldn't get a full 80 minutes performance out there," he said.

"The biggest issues for us have been ourselves, penalties, turnovers, just making really silly mistakes – tier two mistakes. Those are fixed when you spend time together."

The Springboks present a daunting challenge, but Kefu says he and the players are looking forward it.

"It will be a great occasion, these are the games that get me out of bed, you want to test yourself against the best in the world," he said. "We are getting better every game and I am pretty sure we will be competitive on Sunday."

Tonga team: 1-Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 2-Paula Ngauamo, 3-Ben Tameifuna (capt), 4-Halaleva Fifita, 5-Sam Lousi, 6-Tanginoa Halaifonua, 7-Sione Talitui, 8-Semisi Paea, 9-Augustine Pulu, 10-William Havili, 11-Anzelo Tuitavuki, 12-Pita Ahki, 13-Malakai Fekitoa, 14-Fine Inisi, 15-Salesi Piutau

Replacements: 16-Sam Moli, 17-Tau Koloamatangi, 18-Sosefo Apikotoa, 19-Adam Coleman, 20-Sione Vailanu, 21-Sonatane Takulua, 22-Patrick Pellegrini, 23-Afusipa Taumoepeau

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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