Hooker Bismarck du Plessis has been included in an unchanged starting side for South Africa’s Rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday (Sunday AEDT).
Du Plessis had been doubtful after having his hand ‘studded’ accidentally by teammate Francois Louw during the 23-19 quarter-final win over Wales.
But he was named in the starting 15, announced on Wednesday by coach Heyneke Meyer at the Springboks team hotel in Guildford, southwest of London.
Veteran lock Victor Matfield, ruled out of South Africa’ past three matches with a hamstring injury after coming out of Test retirement, returned on the bench in place of Pieter-Steph du Toit.
This was the first time since last November that Meyer has been able to name an unchanged starting team for successive Tests.
“It’s great to be able to give another run to the team that got us through to the semi-finals in the biggest Test of the year,” said Meyer.
“Victor’s inclusion on the bench gives us even more experience there.
“His influence will also be pivotal against a strong New Zealand lineout.”
The All Blacks, the reigning world champions, thrashed France 62-13 in their quarter-final.
“We’re playing against the defending champions and the top-ranked side in the world, but the current New Zealand side can also be regarded as arguably one of the best Test teams ever,” said Meyer.
“We have the utmost respect for their players and coaching staff and, although there is an intense rivalry, we actually get along very well away from the field,” he added.
“But we have to believe we can beat them otherwise we’ll be wasting our time on Saturday,” added the coach, whose side suffered a shock defeat by Japan in their tournament opener.
“Tests against New Zealand are very intense and the margins over the last couple of years have been small.
“We’re not expecting anything different this weekend and the self-belief is there,” Meyer said.
New Zealand, who have won seven of their past nine Tests against South Africa, are due to name their side on Thursday.
Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damien de Allende, Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Fourie du Preez (capt); Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw; Lodewyk de Jager, Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Res: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Jannie du Plessis, Victor Matfield, Willem Alberts, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.