South Africa remained unbeaten in Pool D and move on to the World Cup quarter-finals after beating Samoa 13-5 at North Harbour Stadium on Friday.
Samoa knew going in that it would be a tough ask to make it into the quarter-finals, but no one ever doubted they would fight until the final whistle.
There was a smidge of 'what might have been' attached to the result though for the islanders as had Mahonri Schwalger grounded a score, who knows what might of happened in the final stages. As it was the reigning champions had enough in the tank to stave off their opponents.
The Springboks came out with intent and quickly set about using their star player of the tournament thus far, Danie Rossouw, to make the metres. Nothing came of their foray after Morne Steyn sliced a drop-goal attempt, but the marker was laid that they weren't going to lose the physical.
South Africa tried for the opening points again moments later when Frans Steyn had a 60-metre penalty shot after good breakdown work from Heinrich Brüssow. That struck the crossbar in what turned out to only be delaying the inevitable as the Bok power soon shone through. They attacked down the left via Schalk Burger, who used his backline, which allowed Bryan Habana to cross in the corner. Morne Steyn's conversion made it 7-0 on ten minutes.
Samoa needed to up the ante and subsequently played to their strengths, with carrying from George Stowers and Seilala Mapusua making ground. That passage certainly let the Boks know they were not going to have it all their own way in Albany as slowly but surely Samoa gained momentum, being willed on by their passionate supporters. It was also apparent South Africa were not going to enjoy a similar score of their triumphs in 2007 and 2003.
That was not to say the Boks were struggling to make their presence felt, and with Frans Steyn sending over a 65-metre penalty on 25 minutes, they knew territory was not going to be a problem. That three was promptly doubled by namesake Morne two minutes later too as Samoa were penalised at scrum-time. 13-0 it was with barely half-an-hour played as Samoa's hopes looked to be getting even slimmer. Wales' fate was also almost known.
North Harbour Stadium was treated to a pulsating finish to the half when Kahn Fotuali'i broke down the right wing before handing on to Mapusua, but the ex-Exiles centre's Hail Mary pass failed to find its man, sending the teams in at 13-0 in favour of the Springboks.
It was a bumper 29,734 crowd on Friday that while packed into an open stadium, did not lack in atmosphere with the vocal Bok fans met by the islanders. And the former were soon to be silenced by a mass of noise from those waving blue and red as a lovely dummy and run from Tusi Pisi unlocked the defence. His offload to Mapusua was then recycled for Stowers to crash in. Pisi missed the kick that would have brought them within one score.
South Africa could have blamed that swing in momentum on the fact they had lost duo Habana and Rossouw, who later returned, to injuries minutes earlier. However, that is doing a disservice to Samoa who were turning up the heat on their rivals during the opening 20 minutes of the second stanza. The Boks needed to some fresh legs and Peter de Villiers oblidged, throwing on forwards Gurthrö Steenkamp and Willem Alberts for the last quarter.
It did little disarm the Samoan assault though as they kept on coming, mixing power up front with stepping wider out until Schwalger came within touching distance of the line before fumbling. Was that to be the moment that would haunt his outfit in the morning?
That it proved to be as an ill-tempered finish that saw Paul Williams sent-off for pushing Brüssow in the face and then John Smit shown yellow after a deliberate slap-down, ultimately ended Samoa's 2011. South Africa are now set to face the Wallabies.
Man of the match: Although on the losing side, Tusi Pisi again showed that he had a big future leading Samoa. The fly-half was light on his feet throughout and marshalled well, finding holes on more than one occasion. Mentions too for Bok props Tendai Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis at scrum-time and also flanker Schalk Burger, who was a genuine nuisance to Maurie Fa'asavalu and George Stowers. David Lemi was also very impressive.
Moment of the match: Had captain Mahonri Schwalger managed to hold onto the ball when reaching out on 66 minutes, maybe the Samoans were on the verge of something historic. But it was not meant to be as even with John Smit going to the sin-bin soon after, South Africa held on to top the Pool and set up a probable last-eight clash with Australia.
Villain of the match: It was played hard but fair until Paul Williams pushed/punched Heinrich Brüssow after being held at a breakdown. Williams will be upset with how he ended the tournament as the frustration got the better of him.
For South Africa:
Con: M Steyn
Pens: F Steyn, M Steyn
Red card: Paul Williams, 67 mins (Samoa, punching)
Yellow card: John Smit, 70 mins (SA, killing the ball)
Samoa: 15 Paul Williams, 14 David Lemi, 13 Seilala Mapusua, 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 George Stowers, 7 Maurie Faasavalu, 6 Taiasina Tuifua, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Daniel Leo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Mahonri Schwalger (c), 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Ole Avei, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 Logovi'i Mulipola, 19 Ofisa Treviranus, 20 Filipo Lavea Levi, 21 Junior Poluleuligaga, 22 George Pisi.
South Africa: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie Du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Jannie Du Plessis, 2 Bismarck Du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Jean De Villiers.
Referee: Nigel Owens
By Adam Kyriacou at North Harbour Stadium