Victor Matfield will captain the Springbok team to play Samoa in the deciding Rugby World Cup Pool D clash at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland on Friday.
Matfield returns from a hamstring strain – after a two-match absence – as one of seven changes to the team that defeated Namibia 87-0 at the same venue on Thursday.
He assumes the captaincy in place of John Smit, who drops to the bench, in a pre-planned move to allow Bismarck du Plessis to start his first match of the tournament.
The Springboks need at least one point from the match to be sure of qualifying for the quarterfinals.
“It’s a great privilege,” said Matfield. “This is a very important game for us and hopefully we can go out there and be very successful.”
Matfield said that there were few practical changes in the build-up to a game by his taking over the captaincy. “We’re a group of senior players working closely together and Smittie will give his inputs off the field as usual,” he said. “On the field I’ll make certain calls and other players will make calls around other parts of the game, so nothing changes.”
There are five changes in the pack as Du Plessis is partnered with the returning Tendai Mtawarira and brother Jannie du Plessis in an all-Sharks front row. The final change among the forwards sees the return of Heinrich Brüssow to the back row.
Bakkies Botha was unavailable for selection after injuring a hamstring against Namibia but the remaining four forwards (Smit, CJ van der Linde, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Willem Alberts) all drop to the bench. De Villiers said that Botha would continue his rehabilitation. “It’s not actually a bad injury and with everybody else fit we can manage him at this moment,” said the coach.
“This is the first time since our first game that we had the privilege to pick the team – at the moment – from 29 fit players. We always knew that all these players would be the players in the mix – either in the starting team or on the bench and it’s just a question of getting the right blend.
“Someone like Frans deserves another chance, for instance. He has been playing very well and was the only player to get us over the gain line in the first half against Namibia. Bissie definitely needs a start so that when we go forward in this tournament I am quite settled in my mind.”
Matfield said Samoa would present a considerable challenge. “They got together for a longer period this year and have had more time to work on their gameplan. I think they’re a very well coached side now. They play within a structure but also have the freedom to play within that structure and they will be very hard to break them down.”
JP Pietersen and Fourie du Preez return to the starting line-up among the back division while the versatile Francois Hougaard drops to the bench where he is joined by the fit-again Jean de Villiers as the two backline replacements in a 5/2 split on the bench.
Friday’s match kicks off at 20h30 (09h30 SA time).
South Africa v Samoa, 30 September 2011, North Harbour Stadium, Auckland
15 Pat Lambie (KwaZulu-Natal) - 9 caps, 2 RWC caps
14 JP Pietersen (KwaZulu-Natal) - 40, 9
13 Jaque Fourie (Western Province) - 67, 13
12 Frans Steyn (Racing Metro, France) - 46, 10
11 Bryan Habana (Western Province) - 72, 9
10 Morné Steyn (Blue Bulls) - 32, 3
9 Fourie du Preez (Blue Bulls) - 60, 9
8 Pierre Spies (Blue Bulls) - 45, 3
7 Schalk Burger (Western Province) - 66, 11
6 Heinrich Brüssow (Free State) - 18, 3
5 Victor Matfield (captain, Blue Bulls) - 108, 12
4 Danie Rossouw (Blue Bulls) - 61, 13
3 Jannie du Plessis (KwaZulu-Natal) - 28, 4
2 Bismarck du Plessis (KwaZulu-Natal) - 40, 7
1 Tendai Mtawarira (KwaZulu-Natal) - 31, 3
16 John Smit (KwaZulu-Natal) - 109, 15
17 Gurthrö Steenkamp (Blue Bulls) - 36, 5
18 CJ van der Linde (Golden Lions) - 73, 7
19 Willem Alberts (KwaZulu-Natal) - 7, 3
20 Francois Louw (Bath, England) - 9, 2
21 Francois Hougaard (Blue Bulls) - 13, 3
22 Jean de Villiers (Western Province) - 70, 2