Injury to force Meyer’s hand

Lood de Jager is set to retain his place in the Springbok starting side due to Victor Matfield's ongoing struggle with injury, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.

It was hoped that Matfield would recover from a hamstring strain to play some part in the World Cup quarter-final against Wales. However, Matfield has not made sufficient progress during training over the past two days, and may miss the match altogether.

The good news is that wing JP Pietersen has recovered from a knee injury and should be back in the starting lineup. Frans Malherbe is set to continue at No 3 ahead of Jannie du Plessis.

Matfield has played 125 Tests for South Africa. His performances at the lineout have contributed to some major victories over the past 15 years.

More recently, Matfield produced a dominant set-piece display to guide South Africa to an important World Cup win against Samoa in Birmingham. That performance came at a price, though, as he re-injured his hamstring and was forced to miss the matches against Scotland and the USA.

De Jager took his starting opportunity with both hands. He was outstanding against Scotland, and just as dominant in the subsequent game against the USA.

On Sunday, Matfield said his hamstring was feeling better and that he was confident about featuring against Wales. At that point, it seemed as if Meyer was set for a difficult choice between the veteran and one of South Africa's form players.

De Jager, however, views the situation very differently.

‘I don’t see it as a battle of me against Victor,’ he said. ‘We’re team-mates and I’ve learned a lot from him. If I have to play off the bench this weekend, I will do what I’ve have to do.

‘You need the seniors there to guide you. I go into Test matches with a lot of emotion and fire in the belly. The seniors provide direction so I can just go and do my thing.’

De Jager agreed that the lineout battle would be fiercely contested, and that Wales No 5 Alun Wyn Jones would be a key man for the Dragons.

'Alun Wyn Jones is a good lock with a lot of experience. He’s proven himself on the international stage and whenever I’m involved it will be a big challenge, especially at the lineout. Hopefully I can get one over him and we can win the game.’

The Bok team will be announced at 11am (South African time) on Wednesday.

Probable Bok XV – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (c), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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Jon Cardinelli