Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has named an unchanged starting XV to face New Zealand in their Rugby World Cup semi-final clash at Twickenham in London on Saturday (17:00 SA time).
The only change to the match-day squad is at replacement lock, where Victor Matfield has overcome his hamstring injury and takes over from Pieter-Steph du Toit, bringing even more experience to the bench.
It’s the first time since last November that Meyer has been able to name an unchanged team for back-to-back Tests and only the sixth time since his appointment in 2012.
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“It’s great to be able to give another run to the team that got us through to the semi-finals in the biggest Test of the year,” said Meyer.
“Victor’s inclusion on the bench gives us even more experience there and, as we saw last weekend against Wales, when the replacements did very well towards the end of the match, this will be crucial. His influence will also be pivotal against a strong New Zealand lineout.”
Meyer said his team is braced for a massive onslaught on Saturday.
“We’re playing against the defending champions and the top-ranked side in the world, but the current New Zealand side can also be regarded as arguably one of the best Test teams ever,” said Meyer.
“We have the utmost respect for their players and coaching staff and although there is an intense rivalry we actually get along very well away from the field.
“But we have to believe we can beat them otherwise we’ll be wasting our time on Saturday. We will have to be at our ultimate best and although we played some excellent rugby against Wales, there are always things to improve on.
“Tests against New Zealand are very intense and the margins over the last couple of years have been small. We’re not expecting anything different this weekend and the self-belief is there.
“Everyone in our group is massively excited about Saturday’s challenge. For many players this will be an once-in-a-lifetime occasion and we want to go out there and make it count in front of what will be a magnificent crowd at a superb stadium.”
Lood de Jager will undergo a late fitness assessment on Friday after which a call on his availability will be made. If he can't play, Matfield will start with Pieter-Steph du Toit on the bench.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (captain), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein