Victor Matfield set for Springboks caps record v Wales
Veteran lock Victor Matfield will on Saturday become South Africa’s most capped player when he captains the side against Wales in his 112th Test match at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
The 37-year-old powerhouse was named as skipper of an experienced Springbok starting line-up which shows two changes from the team which beat Wales by 38-16 in Durban last week.
Both changes are in the pack, where Tendai Mtawarira returns at loosehead prop, with Gurthrö Steenkamp reverting to the bench, while Flip van der Merwe will partner Matfield in the second row in the place of Bakkies Botha.
The only other change to the team is amongst the backline reserves, where Wynand Olivier replaces the injured Johan Goosen to provide necessary midfield cover.
Ruan Pienaar will provide backup for scrumhalf and flyhalf, while Lwazi Mvovo can cover fullback and wing.
Matfield made his Test debut on 30 June 2001 against Italy in Port Elizabeth.
He retired after the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand 2011 on 110 caps, but made a highly successful return to the game earlier this year.
“This is a fantastic accolade for Victor,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday.
“He has been a terrific servant of the game in South Africa and has led his country with distinction since returning to the Green and Gold.
“When he returned to the game earlier this season, he set his goals on becoming a Springbok yet again and he’s worked extremely hard to get there.
“I don’t think anyone can doubt that he deserves his place in the team and he’s also been a great interim captain, with Jean de Villiers out injured.”
Commenting on the team selection, Meyer said it was an easy decision to stick with the core of the team which beat the Welsh last weekend in Durban.
“I’ve always preferred to stick with a winning combination and the changes to the team were both part of our planning,” said Meyer.
“The backline really performed well last weekend and we would like to give them another opportunity to play together, as there were a number of new combinations.
“The same applies upfront. Bakkies is fit for selection, but we decided to manage his workload this week and I know Flip, who has been outstanding in the last two seasons, will slot back in easily. The same goes for ‘Beast’, who upped the tempo with his work rate last weekend.”
Meyer said he is expecting another tough challenge from Wales this weekend.
“They’ve had another week together and will be keen to lift their game on Saturday, but at the same time we were not happy with certain aspects of our game and we’ve worked hard to rectify that,” he said.
South Africa squad:
Willie le Roux; Cornal Hendricks, JP Pietersen, Jan Serfontein, Bryan Habana; Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw; Victor Matfield (captain), Flip van der Merwe; Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: Schalk Brits, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Lood de Jager, Schalk Burger, Ruan Pienaar, Wynand Olivier, Lwazi Mvovo
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Published: June 19, 2014 04:00 AM