Samoa look to expand their game beyond the physical

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SAMOA battered and bruised Scotland into submission to record an impressive Test win on Saturday but the Pacific islanders are looking to become less dependent on their physical approach for success.

Instead, coach Stephen Betham wants a more expansive game from his side, whose superhero physiques and gladiatorial approach often has spectators flinching at the brutality of the contest.

Betham says his side are looking to improve in the technical aspects of the game and also trying to build a bigger pool of international quality players ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

“We are trying to change. It is part of our game to be physical but we are trying to vary our game with other options that can make us stronger,” he said.

Samoa beat Scotland 27-17 in Durban and play Italy in Nelspruit next weekend, after which is a potential match-up against South Africa in Pretoria on 22 June as part of the four nation tournament.

“We want to be consistent at what we do, not perform well one week and then have a bad one the next. It’s something we are working hard on,” Betham said.

“We need consistency in our forward play, scrummaging and to compete better in the lineouts. We have a natural flair and physical attributes but we need to hold our own at the set plays too.

“Building to the World Cup we have looked to broaden the selection. This is one of the areas where Samoa has been weak in the past, so we have chopped and changed a lot of players over the last year.

“We want four or five players contesting for one spot in the team.”

Saturday’s victory was Samoa’s first in nine attempts against the Scots and comes after an impressive 26-19 win over Wales in Cardiff last November.

Samoan potential is emphasised by twice having reached the World Cup quarter-finals. “It’s always a dream of ours to go up against the top rugby-playing nations and we have worked hard to get the opportunity,” added Betham.

“Now it’s up to us as a team to take it front on and make the best of it,” he added.

In the other match to take place on Saturday in the quadrangular tournament, hosts South Africa also got off to a winning start with a 44-10 victory over Italy.

Experienced winger Bryan Habana, in his 84th test appearance, won the man-of-the-match award after setting up an early try for centre JJ Engelbrecht and scoring a breath-taking effort of his own at a crucial juncture of the match in the second half. It extended to 48 his record as South Africa’s top test try scorer.