• Lood starts, Victor on bench

    The Springboks have named an unchanged starting lineup for their semi-final clash against the All Blacks at Twickenham on Saturday.

    In a major boost for the Boks, Lood de Jager has recovered from a worrying foot injury and will retain his place at No 5 lock, while Victor Matfield will play off the bench after recovering from a hamstring strain.

    Bismarck du Plessis has recovered from a laceration to the hand and will keep the No 2 jersey for this highly anticipated clash.

    Frans Malherbe retains his place at tighthead prop ahead of Jannie du Plessis, while Willie le Roux will continue at fullback despite a patchy performance against Wales last Saturday.

    Matfield's inclusion on the bench in place of Pieter-Steph du Toit is the only change to the match 23, while for the first time since last November, Heyneke Meyer has been able to name an unchanged team for back-to-back Tests.

    '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,' the coach said. '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.'

    However, it was revealed that De Jager will still have to undergo a late fitness assessment on Friday, and if he were to be ruled out, Matfield would then start, with Pieter-Steph du Toit coming back onto the bench.

    Meyer said his team was bracing 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.

    '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 a 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.'

    Springboks – 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.
    Subs: 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.

    Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

    Post by

    Craig Lewis