The Springboks have named an unchanged starting XV to take on the All Blacks in the crunch Rugby World Cup Semi final at Twickenham on Saturday. The only change in the 23 is the return of veteran Victor Matfield, who comes in on the bench, replacing Pieter-Steph du Toit.
Matfield missed the quarter final victory over Wales with a hamstring injury, but returns, boosting the experience in the side as the 38-year-old World Cup winner takes up a position on the bench.
“It’s great to be able to give another run to the team that got us through to the semi-finals in the biggest Test of the year,” said coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Victor’s inclusion on the bench gives us even more experience there and, as we saw last weekend against Wales, when the replacements did very well towards the end of the match, this will be crucial. His influence will also be pivotal against a strong New Zealand line-out.”
Meyer said his team is braced for a massive onslaught on Saturday.
“We’re playing against the defending champions and the top-ranked side in the world, but the current New Zealand side can also be regarded as arguably one of the best Test teams ever. We have the utmost respect for their players and coaching staff and although there is an intense rivalry we actually get along very well away from the field.
“But we have to believe we can beat them otherwise we’ll be wasting our time on Saturday. We will have to be at our ultimate best and although we played some excellent rugby against Wales, there are always things to improve on.
“Tests against New Zealand are very intense and the margins over the last couple of years have been small. We’re not expecting anything different this weekend and the self-belief is there. Everyone in our group is massively excited about Saturday’s challenge. For many players this will be an once-in-a-lifetime occasion and we want to go out there and make it count in front of what will be a magnificent crowd at a superb stadium,” said Meyer.
Lock Lood de Jager will undergo a late fitness assessment on Friday after which a call on his availability will be made. If he can’t play, Matfield will start with Pieter-Steph du Toit on the bench.
Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damian De Allende, Bryan Habana, Handré Pollard, Fourie du Preez (captain), Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger (vice-captain), Francois Louw, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Jannie du Plessis, Victor Matfield, Willem Alberts, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein
Stats and Facts:
- If he scores a try, Bryan Habana will extend his record of 64 Test tries for South Africa. Currently he is joint second on the list for most Test tries. David Campese of Australia is the other player. First on the list is Daisuke Ohata of Japan on 69 career tries.
- Bryan is the new world record holder for most Test tries as a wing. He surpassed the previous record of Daisuke Ohata of Japan (62) during the pool match against the USA.
- Bryan is the joint record holder for most career tries (15) in RWC tournaments. He can become sole record holder by scoring just one try. Jonah Lomu of New Zealand is the other player with 15 career tries. Close on Bryan’s heels is Drew Mitchell of Australia with 14 RWC career tries.
- Schalk Burger will play in his 78th Test as a flank, South Africa’s most capped Springbok flank. Saturday’s Test will be his 19th RWC Test, the most by a Springbok in RWC tournaments. He is also the Springbok record holder for most tries as a flank (14) as well as a forward (16).
- Should Victor Matfield be used as a substitute he will extend his record as most capped Springbok as well as most capped Springbok against New Zealand – he has played in 26 career Tests against the All Blacks.
- The referee is Jérôme Garcès of France. His debut as an international referee was in 2010 in a match between England and the Barbarians. He served as assistant referee in four Tests during the 2011 RWC.
During this tournament he was referee in three Test matches, including the South Africa/Japan Test during the first week. It will be his seventh Test involving South Africa. Of the previous six Tests, South Africa won three and lost three.