Matfield to become most capped Springbok in history

Photosport     18 Jun 2014     Photosport

Matfield made his Test debut on 30 June 2001 against Italy in Port Elizabeth. He retired after the Rugby World Cup in 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.”

Matfield, who is also the most-capped Super Rugby player in South Africa, will captain a 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.

Commenting on the team selection, Springbok coach Heyneke 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,” said Meyer.

“This is their last match of the season, so we’re expecting them to come out firing. But we also want to make a step up and ensure we keep on improving as the season progresses.”

The Springbok team to face Wales in Nelspruit is:

15 Willie le Roux - 13 caps, 25 Test points
14 Cornal Hendricks - 1 cap, 5 Test points
13 JP Pietersen - 52 caps, 80 Test points
12 Jan Serfontein - 10 caps, 5Test points
11 Bryan Habana - 96 caps, 275 Test points
10 Morné Steyn - 55 caps, 649 Test points
9 Fourie du Preez (vice-captain) - 68 caps, 75 Test points
8 Duane Vermeulen - 17 caps, 10 Test points
7 Willem Alberts - 31 caps, 35 Test points
6 Francois Louw - 29 caps, 25 Test points
5 Victor Matfield (captain) - 111 caps, 35 Test points
4 Flip van der Merwe - 34 caps, 5 Test points
3 Jannie du Plessis - 52 caps, 5 Test points
2 Bismarck du Plessis (vice-captain) - 58 caps, 45 Test points
1 Tendai Mtawarira - 54 caps, 10 Test points

16 Schalk Brits - 6 caps, 0 Test points
17 Gurthrö Steenkamp - 50 caps, 30 Test points
18 Coenie Oosthuizen - 15 caps, 10 Test points
19 Lood de Jager - 1 cap, 0 Test points
20 Schalk Burger - 69 caps, 65 Test points
21 Ruan Pienaar - 75 caps, 130 Test points
22 Wynand Olivier - 37 caps, 5 Test points
23 Lwazi Mvovo - 8 caps, 5 Test points