High praise for Bok lock duo

2014-06-04 15:00
Bakkies Botha (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Veteran second-rowers Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha will start alongside each other for the first time in three years in South Africa's season-opening game against a World XV on Saturday.

Matfield was picked as stand-in captain in the absence of injured skipper Jean de Villiers and immediately reclaimed his old No 5 jersey for the Springboks' first game of 2014 after returning from retirement at the start of the year.

He was joined in coach Heyneke Meyer's team announcement on Wednesday by Botha, who was recalled at the end of last year. Both were World Cup winners in 2007 and hold the Test record as the most capped lock combination, but haven't played together for the Springboks since Matfield retired after the 2011 World Cup.

"If anyone told me two years ago that Victor and Bakkies would play together again for the Boks, I probably wouldn't have believed it," said Meyer. "They have been great servants of the game in South Africa and now have the opportunity to take it further."

The 37-year-old Matfield has 110 Test caps, the second most for the Springboks, while Botha, who is 34, has played 78 Tests.

Continuing his trend of looking to include more experience in the setup, Meyer brought another of South Africa's 2007 World Cup winners back into the fold when he picked flank Schalk Burger on the bench. Like Matfield, Burger hasn't played for his country since the last World Cup in New Zealand because of a string of injuries and illness.

Wing Cornal Hendricks was handed his South Africa 15-a-side debut after representing the sevens team, and the No 2-ranked Boks will have a new centre combination in Francois Steyn and regular wing JP Pietersen. Morné Steyn was at flyhalf and Ulster's Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf with Fourie du Preez on the bench. Saracens hooker Schalk Brits was also included among the reserves.

Toulon wing Bryan Habana starts at No 11 with Willie le Roux at fullback. Meyer retained his regular front row of Tendai Mtawarira and du Plessis brothers Bismarck and Jannie. The favoured loose forward combination from last season of No 8 Duane Vermeulen and flanks Francois Louw and Willem Alberts were also retained.

South Africa play the World XV at Newlands before hosting two Tests against Wales and one against Scotland this month. South Africa last played against a World XV at home in 1989.


South Africa:

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Fourie du Preez, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Lwazi Mvovo  

World XV:



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Debate rages! Who is the greatest ever Springbok hooker ... John Smit, Bismarck du Plessis or someone else perhaps?

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