The experienced JP Pietersen is back in the Springboks’ starting line-up for their Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Wales at Twickenham in London on Saturday (kick-off 17:00 SA time).
Pietersen – who scored a hat-trick against Samoa in the second pool match – is included in 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 Test-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 Handre 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 knock-out 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.
South African team:
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (captain), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.