Tonga reaction (head coach Kefu, captain Tameifuna, Coleman, Fekitoa, Piutau)

Tonga reaction (head coach Kefu, captain Tameifuna, Coleman, Fekitoa, Piutau)


Adam Coleman, lock

On the physical battle:

"Tonga try to play the same type of game as South Africa does. It’s very physical, it’s in both teams' DNA. It was a very physical test match. There will be some sore bodies tomorrow. We’ll rest up and go again next week but good luck to South Africa for the rest of the tournament."

On how Tonga can become even more competitive:

"We do need more tier-one games. Tonight was pretty close. I don’t think the scoreboard did us justice. They had a few tries that were quick-tap when we switched off. That's 14 points there."

On what he would say to other players, like himself, who could be eligible to play for Tonga:

"With this new rule, you don’t have international players sitting on the sidelines. You want the best playing on the world stage in the World Cup. I’d really recommend it if you have that opportunity to represent your heritage. My old man played for Tonga, my uncles and my cousins, there’s a big blood line there. 

"There are cultural aspects to it off the field that I’m learning. It’s quite cool to re-engage with my Tongan side."

On his family being there to watch him play:

"My missus was here with my three kids and her friend and my mum. It was special having them here. All my family back home no doubt were watching. Every moment I wear the red jersey I’m proud...and [it comes with] a lot of family pressure - the Tongan feedback is always a bit harsh (laughs).”

On who could be the next star for Tonga:

"Semisi Paea. He has literally come from nowhere. I think he was working in the forest chopping down trees last year and he’s just started for the 'Ikale Tahi. What a 12 months he has had. Fini [Inisi] and Anzelo [Tuitavuki], both wings, they are just natural talent. 

"So many Tongans have natural talent, it’s just how we can tap into it and get more tier-one games, knowing what it is like - the pace, the physicality. Like today, we gave away one penalty, they mauled and they went wide and scored within two or three phases. World-class teams will punish you.”

On his favourite Rugby World Cup moment:

"My debut last week for the 'Ikale Tahi, but it was also after the game walking round the field with my three kids. It hit different. It was like a full-circle moment. My old man played for Tonga and now my kids were on the pitch with me. It was a different feeling from the 2019 World Cup [when he played for Australia]."

Malakai Fekitoa, centre

On being heavily strapped:

"I’m getting old now. I've been playing professionally for the last 12 years so I've had a few injuries, just trying to stay on top of it."

On pulling on the red of Tonga:

"It’s special. Obviously we would have liked to have had a different campaign but we’ve played the best two teams in the world. I felt we’ve improved a lot in the last few games, representing our people."

On the atmosphere:

"It was pretty cool, weird in a way because probably there were more green jerseys than red, but funnily enough, they cheered for us, which kept us going. You don’t score many against the Boks so let’s celebrate that."

On what experience he’s brought to Tonga from the All Blacks and Munster:

"I’ve been around the game and I’ve led with how I prepare and how I train. The mindset as well, working hard and keeping the consistency in my performance and training. Hopefully some of the younger boys will watch that and it will help their game, and we’ve put a foundation in that will help the team - how we prepare and how we go against the big teams. I feel we are heading in the right direction."

On Fiji:

"They are playing really well, they look like they are going to qualify for the quarter-finals so hopefully they kick on from there. You can see the Fijian boys are gelling, playing really unbelievable rugby so I hope they keep going in the play-offs."

Salesi Piutau, full-back

On his feelings on the game:

“Proud would be the word to describe that game. The result and score didn’t go our way. We looked at each other in the changing room after the game and [knew] we gave it everything we could. That’s all we can ask for from the boys.

"Hopefully we did do our country, our village and our families proud."

On the respect between South Africa and Tonga:

"The game tonight was played in good spirit. There was great respect after that game and it was great to just get in the circle with the boys and be able to share a few words and to even say a prayer. It was pretty awesome.

"Talking to some of the South African boys in the sheds, there’s a few bodies banged up - in our shed as well. We both anticipated that physicality in this game, it lived up to it and both teams enjoyed it."

On how difficult the pool has been:

"Sometimes you think it would be nice to be in a pool where you have more of a chance, but at the same time you get to play number one, number two and number five [in the world]. The experience we’ll take away as a team to build for the future, there will be a lot of positives."

On the difference between Ireland, Scotland and South Africa games:

"The boys were saying the most physical game was tonight. I think you could see that.

"All the teams are pretty tough in their own way. Ireland were pretty clinical with set-piece tries and Scotland, they opened up the game towards the end."


Toutai Kefu, head coach

On scoring three tries against South Africa, their first time conceding three tries at Rugby World Cup 2023:

"I didn’t know that. That’s nice, that’s good. I would rather the result (was) better.

"We were always going to judge ourselves on our performance today and I thought the boys had a real dig. We mentioned to the group before the game (to) put a performance out there that, when you come off the field, you’re absolutely proud of, your family are proud of, your village is proud of - regardless of the score - and I think they did that."

On their improvements at the tournament:

"We’re tracking in the right way, which means we’ll have our best game next week, and then the tour’s over. It happens every campaign. We go on three-, four-week campaigns. The last game’s always our best game because we’ve had more time together and we’ve played some opposition."

On not having enough time together as a team:

"We’ve got the talent now, the eligibility rules opened that door for us. We need time to really blend. I’ve got players coming from 20-plus programmes. I think Ireland, 90 per cent of their players come from one programme. New Zealand, they come from five or six programmes.

"A third of my group play in France, a third play in the UK, the other third play in New Zealand - although a couple in Japan. 

"It just makes sense that it’s going to take longer for us to get on the same page. You look at today, there were three or four turnovers that led to their tries.

"They’re tier-two mistakes. Spending more time together will fix that up, I believe. Getting more regular competition will fix that up.”

Ben Tameifuna, captain

On matching the Springboks’ physicality:

"The Springboks are known for their physicality, so we had to fire up and meet fire with fire because if we didn’t the score could have been bigger. I’m still proud of the boys, they always dug deep and held them out for long passages. There definitely is going to be a few sore bodies tomorrow, I’ll tell you that.”

On what made the difference:

“They’ve been to those kinds of places in games where it goes to those pressure moments. We haven’t been exposed enough to those pressure moments and we’ve never been pushed to those kinds of limits. It’s a good experience for our boys and hopefully next week we can build on what we put out there today.”


Toutai Kefu, head coach

On playing the world champions:

"That is what rugby is all about. You want to play against the best. That's what makes the good players get out of bed so it was a fantastic experience for everyone today."

On the performance of the Tonga backs:

"Our backs are our strength and the forwards have been going really well as well. We are getting better and better. I really believe next week will be our best performance."

Ben Tameifuna, captain

On the performance:

"It was a hard battle out there. This team, we don't have a lot, but the boys turn up at this tough tournament and to put a performance like that shows where we are all heading.

"South Africa are the best in the world and it's always tough to cross their line and we managed to do that a few times tonight."

On the physical battle of the forwards:

"In these kind of games, especially with the South Africans, you have to meet fire with fire and the boys did that tonight. If we did it for longer phases we might have got a result. I'm proud of the boys.

"The crowd have been bloody awesome. I'd like to thank everyone. We just need to recover well and look forward to next week."

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