20 June 2014
Victor Matfield will become the most capped Springbok test player of all-time on Saturday when he leads South Africa against Wales at the Mbombela Stadium in his 112th test.
The legendary lock made his test debut on 30 June 2001 against Italy in Port Elizabeth. In 2011, he retired after the Rugby World Cup in 2011, having won 110 caps for the Springboks. Earlier this year, however, he made a highly successful return to the game.
‘A fantastic accolade’
“This is a fantastic accolade for Victor,” Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said in a statement 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.”
Aged 37, Matfield, who is also the most-capped Vodacom 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 Gurthro 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 midfield cover. Ruan Pienaar will provide backup for scrumhalf and flyhalf, while Lwazi Mvovo can cover fullback and wing.
An easy decision
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,” he explained.
“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 up front. 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.’
A tough challenge
Meyer said he is expecting another tough challenge from the Welsh 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.”
South Africa take an excellent record against Wales into Saturday’s test. In 28 matches, the Springboks have won 26 times, drawn once and lost only once.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez (vice-captain), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (vice-captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Gurthro Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Wynand Olivier, 23 Lwazi Mvovo