Springboks

Flip ecstatic with Vic reunion

2014-06-20 05:30
Flip van der Merwe (AFP)

Mbombela - Flip van der Merwe will have the most capped Springbok next to him in the scrums when he combines with Victor Matfield against Wales in Mbombela on Saturday.

Matfield will not only become the most-capped Test player for South Africa but also the oldest player to ever pull the green-and-gold jersey over his head.

His milestone will in turn serve as a reminder to Van der Merwe of when he made his Springbok debut on June 12, 2010, where he coincidentally partnered with Matfield.

Van der Merwe had combined well with the Springbok stalwart on his return to the Bulls in this year's Super Rugby competition and he was eager to continue their partnership for the national side.

"It is very special, I had my first start in the Springbok jersey with Victor as well, it went well and I think we can continue that," Van der Merwe said.

"I think I've played some good rugby with Victor on my side and I am enjoying it."

Before Matfield's return from his two-year retirement, the perceived lack of quality number-five locks had been a nagging problem for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

However, last year Van der Merwe slotted comfortably into that position for the national side and has since come into his own as one of the country's top second-rowers.

The emergence of Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Lood de Jager, and Stephan Lewies was also an indication that South Africa was growing a healthy depth at lock in general.

Injuries had kept Etzebeth and Du Toit out of the Springbok team for the June internationals but they were generally considered to be the future Springbok lock combination.

Juandre Kruger, who has been plying his trade with French club Racing Metro has been rated as one of the best locks in Europe the past season, but has fallen out of favour with the Springbok mentor.

The Springboks' friendly against the World XV at the beginning of June and last week's first match against Wales saw Matfield and Bakkies Botha reignite what used to be one of the best lock combinations in world rugby.

Botha's niggling Achilles tendon injury has again opened the door for Van der Merwe to prove he belongs at Matfield's side.

Competition for the second row could prove to be one of the hottest contested positions before next year's Rugby World Cup in England.

With injuries a constant threat to team selection, the growing depth in one of the most important positions is the remedy to what could have been a lingering problem.

De Jager impressed in his Springbok debut against Wales when he replaced Botha early in the second half.

Van der Merwe was a relieved man when he found a Springbok jersey with his name on his return to the squad this week after he had missed the first match.

"Every game in the Springbok jersey is a big thing and you definitely have some heartache on a Saturday when you don't play," Van der Merwe said.

"I had butterflies about the speech (at his brother's wedding reception) I had to do and not about running on for the Springboks.

"I definitely missed playing in the Springbok jersey and every Test you miss is a big one. Big ups to the coach for letting me go and attend my brother's wedding."

Teams:

South Africa
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 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, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Wynand Olivier, 23 Lwazi Mvovo

Wales
15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins

Substitutes: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Paul James, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 James Hook, 23 Matthew Morgan

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