Frans Malherbe will anchor the Springboks’ scrum in their 2015 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against Wales at Twickenham in London on Saturday afternoon, one of five DHL Stormers stars in the Boks’ starting XV.
The return of the experienced JP Pietersen – who scored a hat-trick against Samoa in the second pool match – is the only change to the starting team that beat the USA by 64-0 in the Boks’ final Pool B match, last Wednesday at the Olympic Stadium.
The 63-capped wing, who has recovered from a knee injury which kept him out of the USA Test, will wear the No.14 jersey and Bryan Habana will revert to the left-wing for this encounter. It will be the 42nd time they play together as a wing-combination in the Springboks’ starting team.
Habana currently leads the try-scoring stakes at the World Cup with five, while Pietersen is joint second with four, a position he shares with five other players.
“JP and Bryan have been in superb form and are playing some of the best rugby of their lives,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“They have been scoring some wonderful tries, as has Lwazi Mvovo, so it’s really great to know that there is good competition among the wings.
“It made sense to reunite Bryan and JP on the wing as it brings a lot of experience to our backline, which has been doing well despite the relative inexperience of Handré Pollard, Damian De Allende and Jesse Kriel.”
The Springbok bench shows four changes from the last match. The experienced quartet of Adriaan Strauss, Jannie du Plessis, Ruan Pienaar and Pat Lambie are all back to give the South Africans a boost from the replacements’ bench.
With a combined total of 252 caps between the four of them, these players should be able to make an impact later in the game.
“We’ve seen first-hand how important it is to have experienced players on the field at the end of a match and to have this kind of experience available on the bench in a knockout match is great,” said Meyer.
“Saturday’s match will be huge and we are expecting an arm wrestle right until the end. We’re playing against a well-balanced side that always likes to mix things up when it comes to physicality.
“They have a good set-piece and some strong ball carriers upfront and in the back – it’s what you expect to face at this stage of the competition and we’re very excited about the challenge.”
The only player who was not considered because of injury is Victor Matfield, who felt some discomfort in his hamstring at training on Tuesday.
“We were planning to use Victor from the bench to add even more experience to our replacements, but we’re also not prepared to risk him if he’s not ready. Luckily in Pieter-Steph du Toit we have another young player who has been performing very well and will slot in with ease,” said Meyer.
The Springbok team to face Wales in London is as follows:
15. Willie le Roux (Toyota FS Cheetahs) – 31 caps
14. JP Pietersen (Cell C Sharks) – 63
13. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls) – 8
12. Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers) – 10
11. Bryan Habana (Toulon) – 114
10. Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls) – 17
9. Fourie du Preez (Suntory – captain) – 74
8. Duane Vermeulen (DHL Stormers) – 32
7. Schalk Burger (DHL Stormers) – 83
6. Francois Louw (Bath) – 40
5. Lood de Jager (Toyota Cheetahs) – 16
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers) – 41
3. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 9
2. Bismarck du Plessis (Cell C Sharks) – 76
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks) – 72
16. Adriaan Strauss (Vodacom Bulls) – 51
17. Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls) – 20
18. Jannie du Plessis (Cell C Sharks) – 67
19. Pieter-Steph du Toit (Cell C Sharks) – 7
20. Willem Alberts (Cell C Sharks) – 35
21. Ruan Pienaar (Ulster) – 87
22. Pat Lambie (Cell C Sharks) – 47
23. Jan Serfontein (Vodacom Bulls) – 23
STATS AND FACTS:
– South Africa and Wales have played only once before against each other in a RWC tournament. That was in 2011 when the Springboks won by 17-16.
– Saturday’s Test match will be the 31st between these two countries in a rivalry that started in 1906 during the first Springbok tour overseas. Of the previous 30 Tests, Wales could manage only two wins while one Test was drawn.
– South Africa’s record against Wales: P: 30; W: 27; L: 2; D: 1; PF: 814; PA: 440; Win%: 90%.
– The most points scored by the Springboks in a match against Wales were 96 (96-13) in 1998 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria. On that occasion the Springboks crossed the tryline 15 times. The winning margin of 83 is the fifth highest in Springbok history.
– The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 686. There are 317 caps in the backline with 369 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 337 caps.
– Bryan Habana will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok wing, with 113 caps in this position. He is the most experienced Springbok backline player with 114 caps and only Victor Matfield (125) has played in more Test matches for South Africa.
– If he scores a try he will extend his own record of 64 Test tries for South Africa. Currently he is joint second on the list for most Test tries. David Campese of Australia is the other player. First on the list is Daisuke Ohata of Japan on 69 career tries.
– Bryan is also the new world record holder for most Test tries as a wing. He surpassed the previous record, held by Daisuke Ohata of Japan (62), during last Wednesday’s match against the USA.
– Bryan is the joint record holder for most career tries (15) in RWC tournaments. He can become sole record holder by scoring just one try. Jonah Lomu of New Zealand is the other player with 15 career tries.
– Bryan and JP Pietersen will be playing in their record 42nd Test as a wing combination in the starting XV.
– Schalk Burger will play in his 77th Test as a flank, South Africa’s most-capped Springbok flank. Saturday’s Test will be his 18th RWC Test to become the most-capped Springbok in RWC. He is also the Springbok record holder for most tries as a flank (14) as well as a forward (16).
– Bismarck du Plessis is the Springbok record holder for most tries (11) in Tests as a hooker.
– Fourie du Preez will play in his 75th Test match.
– The referee is Wayne Barnes of England. He became a professional referee in April, 2005 and at the end of 2014 had already officiated as referee in more than 50 Tests. It will be his 12th Test involving South Africa. Of the previous 11 Tests, South Africa won eight and lost three.
– Twickenham is the largest dedicated rugby union venue in the world, the second largest stadium in the United Kingdom and fourth largest in Europe. This is the venue for this first quarter-final match of RWC 2015. Twickenham has a seating capacity of 81,605.
– The Springboks have played 20 Test matches at this stadium, winning 11 and losing nine. Except for the RWC semifinal against Australia in 1999, all Tests were against England.
Springbok Test match record holders at Twickenham:
– Most points: 21 by Jannie de Beer (6p, 1d) against Australia – October 30, 1999
– Most tries: Two by Chester Williams against England – November 18, 1995
– Most conversions: Three by Ruan Pienaar against England – November 22, 2008
– Most penalty goals: Six by Jannie de Beer against Australia – October 30, 1999
– Most drop-goals: Four by André Pretorius against England – November 25, 2006