Former England flyhalf Stuart Barnes says the Springboks have benefited from Jean de Villiers's World Cup-ending injury.
De Villiers broke his jaw against Samoa, which saw Fourie du Preez assume the captaincy for the match against Scotland, and Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel resume their midfield partnership.
Barnes, writing in The Times of London, said De Villiers's injury has proved to be a blessing for the Boks.
'South Africa would have been unlikely to replace their core leaders despite the arguments that the captain, in particular, was no longer good enough to merit selection. De Villiers has been a magnificent Springbok for many a year, but there does come a time and his had arrived.
'The broken jaw sustained in the defeat by Argentina impacted upon his physique. He lost 6kg between then and the World Cup, and with the weight, he lost the power of his no-nonsense game; never a lesser man but a lesser player. Given his horrendous list of injuries, it is something approaching a miracle that he even made it to England. However, his presence hindered rather than helped the South Africans.
'The same applies to the lofty majesty of Matfield; in his absence the magnificent, monstrous combination of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager have been reunited in the Springbok second row. They bullied a brave Scotland pack. The pair could yet be the most decisive combination of the competition. The manager has a decision to make when the legendary lock is fit for the quarter-finals. But if the Springboks are to be the first team to lose a game and win the World Cup, [Heyneke] Meyer must surely stick with youth.'
Barnes added that Du Preez seems to have been the right choice to replace De Villiers as captain.
'There are leaders you follow by example and those whose mind is so sharp, you just let them lead. Fourie du Preez is of the latter variety. A quiet man whose brain does his talking for him. He is also blessed with leaders around him.
'De Villiers’s dreadful luck and Matfield’s injury could be the making of South Africa.'
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