No Victor Matfield but JP Pietersen returns to face Wales

Bryan Habana looks to surpass Jonah Lomu’s RWC try tally for South Africa

Victor Matfield has not recovered from a hamstring injury which will once again leave South Africa facing into their quarterfinal against Wales this weekend with their two first choice captains injured.

The career of Jean De Villiers was prematurely ended with a broken jaw with Matfield then taking over.

But the 38-year-old lock will not be risked by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer with JP Pieterson’s inclusion on the wing the only change South Africa have made from their storming 64-0 win against USA, the biggest of the tournament so far.

As a result Bryan Habana moves to the left wing with Pieterson on the right. Habana is hoping to add one more try to his World Cup haul of 15 tries, which leaves him level as the all time record holder with New Zealand's Jonah Lomu.


“There is still tightness and soreness there. It is not worth risking for the long term. He wants to play but it is better off to withdraw,” said Meyer of his veteran secondrow. “It’s a big setback but we have very good locks going forward.”

Fourie du Preez will captain the side.

It’s an unusually young South African side with an average age of 27 years 210 days but Meyer believes he has his pack playing well and prepared for the physical challenge that the Welsh will bring.

“Slowly but surely our pack is playing the way I wanted them to from the start,” said Mayer. “I don’t think the game against Wales will open up. It is going to be an arm wrestle. But I really back these youngsters to play well.

“We know how Wales play. They are a quality side that don’t concede tries, only two tries against them in the first four games I think. They always get forward and use their big backs to get over the line, same as us.”

It's the second youngest South African World Cup team since the final in 2007. Pietersen, along with Habana, Schalk Burger and Fourie Du Preez are the only four players who started for the Springboks in their 2011 quarterfinal, when they lost 11-9 to Australia.

Ulster's Ruan Pienaar is on the Springbok bench along with Adriaan Strauss, the cousin of Irish hooker Richardt Strauss. The relatives have been in touch during the tournament "but only by text message," said Adriaan.

South Africa: Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Fourie du Preez (captain); Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Frans Malherbe; Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager; Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Willem Alberts, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times