Mat­field re­claims cap­taincy one last time

The Herald - Sport - - RUGBY WORLD CUP -

THE World Cup’s third place play-off match will have a cer­e­mo­nial el­e­ment to it as Vic­tor Mat­field re­turns to the start­ing line-up to end his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer in ap­pro­pri­ate fash­ion by lead­ing the Spring­boks into ac­tion.

The 38-year-old who was his coun­try’s reg­u­lar cap­tain for a num­ber of years and is the old­est man ever to rep­re­sent South Africa in a Test, re­turns in place of Lode de Jager – some 16 years his ju­nior – and leads the team in the ab­sence of Fourie du Preez who has also in­di­cated that his Spring­bok ca­reer may be over, but who suf­fered se­vere bruis­ing to his cheek­bone and eye against the All Blacks last week­end.

Mat­field’s stand­ing within the team and in his coun­try’s sport­ing his­tory was re­flected on by Eben Etze­beth, an­other rel­a­tive young­ster at 23 who has part­nered him many times at lock.

“It has been a huge hon­our to play with Vic­tor. A guy with 120 tests for South Africa doesn’t come around ev­ery day and it is a great chance to play along­side him in his fi­nal test. Any young player can learn off him. He will al­ways be re­mem­bered for many years to come. We want one more big per­for­mance, not just from him, but the en­tire team,” he said.

With Ruan Pien­aar re­plac­ing du Preeez those are the only changes to the semi-fi­nal start­ing XV, in­di­cat­ing some­thing of a change of mind­set since Heyneke Meyer, their head coach, claimed at the week­end to have no in­ter­est in this match.

By con­trast Ar­gentina’s Pu­mas, who are also with­out their cap­tain Agustin Creevy af­ter he hob­bled off dur­ing their semi-fi­nal against Aus­tralia, make nine changes, but that is at least partly down to the short turn-around af­ter their fre­netic en­counter with the Wal­la­bies.

Nicolas Sanchez will cap­tain the side for the first time in his ca­reer seek­ing to pro­tect his lead at the top of the points scor­ing charts at the tour­na­ment. He has reg­is­tered 89 so far while op­po­site num­ber An­dre Pol­lard is tied in sec­ond place with Greig Laid­law, the Scot­land cap­tain, just 10 points be­hind.

BOW­ING OUT: Vic­tor Mat­field will play his fi­nal test match for South Africa

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