Vodacom Bulls lock Victor Matfield will on Saturday become the most-capped Test player in the history of South African rugby when he leads the Springboks against Wales in his 112th Test match at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
Matfield made his Test debut on 30 June 2001 against Italy in Port Elizabeth. He retired after the Rugby World Cup in 2011 on 110 caps, but made a highly successful return to the game earlier this year.
“This is a fantastic accolade for Victor,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday.
“He has been a terrific servant of the game in South Africa and has led his country with distinction since returning to the Green and Gold.
“When he returned to the game earlier this season, he set his goals on becoming a Springbok yet again and he’s worked extremely hard to get there. I don’t think anyone can doubt that he deserves his place in the team and he’s also been a great interim captain, with Jean de Villiers out injured.”
Matfield, who is also the most-capped Vodacom Super Rugby player in South Africa, will captain a Springbok starting line-up which shows two changes from the team which beat Wales by 38-16 in Durban last week.
Both changes are in the pack, where Tendai Mtawarira returns at loosehead prop, with Gurthrö Steenkamp reverting to the bench, while Flip van der Merwe will partner Matfield in the second row in the place of Bakkies Botha.
The only other change to the team is amongst the backline reserves, where Wynand Olivier replaces the injured Johan Goosen to provide necessary midfield cover. Ruan Pienaar will provide backup for scrumhalf and flyhalf, while Lwazi Mvovo can cover fullback and wing.
Commenting on the team selection, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said it was an easy decision to stick with the core of the team which beat the Welsh last weekend in Durban.
“I’ve always preferred to stick with a winning combination and the changes to the team were both part of our planning,” said Meyer.
“The backline really performed well last weekend and we would like to give them another opportunity to play together, as there were a number of new combinations.
“The same applies upfront. Bakkies is fit for selection, but we decided to manage his workload this week and I know Flip, who has been outstanding in the last two seasons, will slot back in easily. The same goes for ‘Beast’, who upped the tempo with his work rate last weekend.”
Meyer said he is expecting another tough challenge from Wales this weekend.
“They’ve had another week together and will be keen to lift their game on Saturday, but at the same time we were not happy with certain aspects of our game and we’ve worked hard to rectify that,” said Meyer.
“This is their last match of the season, so we’re expecting them to come out firing. But we also want to make a step up and ensure we keep on improving as the season progresses.”
The Springbok team to face Wales in Nelspruit is:
Position Name Test Caps Test points
15. Willie le Roux 13 25
14. Cornal Hendricks 1 5
13. JP Pietersen 52 80
12. Jan Serfontein 10 5
11. Bryan Habana 96 275
10. Morné Steyn 55 649
9. Fourie du Preez (vice-captain) 68 75
8. Duane Vermeulen 17 10
7. Willem Alberts 31 35
6. Francois Louw 29 25
5. Victor Matfield (captain) 111 35
4. Flip van der Merwe 34 5
3. Jannie du Plessis 52 5
2. Bismarck du Plessis (vice-captain) 58 45
1. Tendai Mtawarira 54 10
16. Schalk Brits 6 0
17. Gurthrö Steenkamp 50 30
18. Coenie Oosthuizen 15 10
19. Lood de Jager 1 0
20. Schalk Burger 69 65
21. Ruan Pienaar 75 130
22. Wynand Olivier 37 5
23. Lwazi Mvovo 8 5
•Victor Matfield will be playing in his 112th Test for the Springboks, breaking the record he shared with John Smit. He will be playing against Wales for the 12th time and will also extend his record of 111 appearances as a lock for South Africa.
•Springbok Test match records at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit :
oMost tries – one each by JJ Engelbrecht and Jan Serfontein on 15 June, 2013 against Scotland.
Issued by SARU Corporate Affairs