Brickwall defence: Andre Pretorius had a tough day at the office

LENS, 22 September - South Africa will finish top of Pool A after defeating a determined Tonga 30-25 in a thrilling match at Stade Felix-Bollaert in Lens on Saturday.

Tonga gave a second-string South Africa an almighty scare before the Springboks clicked into gear to post a four-tries-to-three victory in front of a sell-out crowd.

South Africa will play their quarter-final against the runner-up of Pool B in Marseille on 7 October.

A disjointed Springboks trailed 10-7 early in the second half before Francois Steyn levelled the gripping encounter with a 54th minute penalty goal.

An enthusiastic Tonga showed plenty of grit and determination against South Africa, ranked number three in the world, and a major upset looked on the cards.

But the Springboks piled on 20 unanswered points in a devastating 15-minute period in the second half to seemingly bury Tonga's hopes.

However, the Pacific Islanders never gave up and scored tries through Sukanaivalu Hufanga and Viliami Vaki to set up a thrilling finish as they bridged the deficit to 27-22 with eight minutes remaining.

Pierre Hola kicked a penalty in the dying stages to bring Tonga within five points.

Both sides were reduced to 14 men from the 63rd minute when referee Wayne Barnes sent Steyn and Tonga wing Joseph Vaka to the sin bin for fighting.

Barnes also yellow-carded Springbok wing Bryan Habana with 11 minutes remaining, leaving South Africa two men short.

The crowd fell silent in the 50th minute when Springboks flanker Danie Rossouw was stretchered off the field with his neck in a brace.

South Africa held a 7-3 halftime lead which could have been greater but fly half Andre Pretorius missed three penalty goal attempts and another in the 48th minute.

RNS djp/gs