Matfield leads charge on Samoa

Victor Matfield will captain the Springboks this Friday while Bismarck du Plessis has been favoured as the starting hooker.

Coach Peter de Villiers has made seven changes in all to the 22 that played against Namibia last Thursday. Du Plessis will play alongside his brother Jannie and another Sharks team-mate in Beast Mtawarira in the front-row, while Heinrich Brussow resumes his role as the starting No 6.

JP Pietersen returns to the starting side on the right wing, and Jean de Villiers is included on the bench having recovered from a rib injury.

The Bok coach said that Bakkies Botha was not considered because of a hamstring injury sustained in the game against Fiji. Botha has struggled with an Achilles ailment since arriving in New Zealand, but Peter de Villiers said the new injury is not serious and that the management is confident he will recover in due course.

De Villiers added that it was the first time in this competition that he had so many players available for selection. Twenty-nine of the 30 Boks trained at Owen Delany Park in Taupo on Monday, with Botha the only absentee. However, Butch James (hip injury) didn’t participate in the kicking drills and it is for this reason that he hasn’t been risked.

De Villiers believes the side he’s picked reflects the threat of the opposition. Bismarck du Plessis is bound to give the Boks more thrust at the set-piece, mobility around the park, and an added dimension on the ground. The return of Matfield is also significant, and the Boks will look to use their lineout to maximum effect.

‘Your set-piece is very important when you play against the island teams,’ said Matfield. ‘If you give them too much ball, they are going to hurt you. We will be trying to apply the pressure at the set-piece. It’s not going to be easy, because Samoa are a different side [compared to the last time the Boks played them in 2007].

‘They’ve been together for a longer period [before the World Cup] and they’re a well coached side. They play with structure and I’m sure they will still look to play with some freedom within those structures. They are going to be very difficult to wear down.’

De Villiers feels that Samoa have sacrificed the flair that has defined them in the past by adopting a more measured approach.

‘If you move away from a certain style you are going to forfeit something in order to gain something else,’ the Bok coach said. ‘They’re looking to keep the ball longer and are very strong at the breakdown. Their ball retention is good. So they’ve gained a lot of things, and now you can actually analyse their game.’

Bismarck du Plessis told this website on Monday that the Boks are wary of the Samoa scrum. De Villiers also believes the islanders’ set-piece impressed in the recent game against Fiji.

‘They annihilated them. It’s something we have looked at closely,’ said De Villiers.

Springboks – 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 John Smit, 17 Gurthro Steenkamp, 18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Jean de Villiers.

By Jon Cardinelli, in Taupo