BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) â€” Samoa picked inexperienced Mike Stanley at flyhalf as one of three changes to the side for the key Rugby World Cup Pool B match against South Africa on Saturday.
The New Zealand-born Stanley, who came off the bench in last Sunday's 25-16 win against the United States, takes the place of Tusi Pisi, the regular standoff & goalkicker.
"The two fly-halves bring different strengths & weaknesses," Samoa coach Stephen Betham said. "We've opted to start off with Michael Stanley: he brings different strengths, & Pisi to come off the bench & hopefully complete the game strong."
p>Stanley, who plays for Irish side Ulster, stands to win only his eighth test cap, & will take the kicking duties. It seems to be a risky choice, seeing as Pisi is more experienced with 25 caps, two tries & 172 points.
"It hasn't actually quite hit me yet that it's the World Cup, it just feels like another game after game after game," Stanley said. "But I think once it's all over then I'll look back & think, 'I actually played in a World Cup.'"
The other two changes are in the forwards, with Motu Matu'u replacing Ole Avei at hooker while TJ Ioane â€” who was not in the squad against the U.S. Eagles â€” comes into the side at flanker for Maurie Fa'asavalu.
With only four test caps, Matu'u will have his work cut out against opposite AJ Strauss, who wins his 50th cap.
No. 8 Vavae Tuilagi, the younger brother of right winger Alesana Tuilagi, earns a place in the reserves along with utility back George Pisi, who sits on the bench with his older brother Tusi.
It means all three Pisi brothers could be on the field at the same time, because Ken Pisi starts on the right wing.
The average age of the Samoa side is pushing 30 years old, yet is more than one year younger on average than the team that faced the U.S.
They may need that extra vigor because the clash at Birmingham's Villa Park â€” home of English Premier League football club Aston Villa â€” promises to be a bruising affair if their last World Cup encounter is anything to go by.
At New Zealand's North Harbour Stadium in 2011, South Africa scraped through a brutal encounter 13-5, advancing to the quarterfinals.
Samoa fullback Paul Williams was sent off for striking flanker Heinrich Brussow in the face, while for the Springboks, captain John Smit was sin-binned for a deliberate knock on, & lock Danie Rossouw sent to the blood bin.
"We're expecting massive warfare. But in saying that we can't come to a war with our hands & a pocket knife, we've received to bring all we've received & face up," Betham said. "We've always expected South Africa to be our toughest opponent here & that hasn't changed one bit. We expect them to be even harder now because that surprise factor is not in there."
Census Johnston, a 137-kilogram bruiser, is on the Samoa bench again in case it gets feisty.
"We're up against a very angry team this weekend. I don't think Japan did us any favors," Johnston said. "We always knew South Africa was going to be a huge test, yet they've just made it worse for us because they are going to be breathing fire this weekend."
South Africa enjoyed a somewhat more comfortable win the last time they met the Samoans, however, winning 56-23 two years ago.
The Springboks will be extra motivated to beat Samoa after losing their first pool match 34-32 to Japan in the biggest upset in the tournament's history.
They will be keeping a close eye on fullback Tim Nanai-Williams, who starred for Samoa against the Eagles with one well-taken try & some elusive running.
Samoa: Tim Nanai-Williams, Ken Pisi, Paul Perez, Rey Lee-Lo, Alesana Tuilagi, Mike Stanley, Kahn Fotuali'i; Ofisa Treviranus (captain), Jack Lam, TJ Ioane, Iosefa Tekori, Teofilo Paulo, Anthony Perenise, Motu Matu'u, Sakaria Taulafo. Reserves: Ole Avei, Viliamu Afatia, Census Johnston, Faifili Levave, Vavae Tuilagi, Vavao Afemai, Tusi Pisi, George Pisi.
Source: “Associated Press”