Matfield reclaims captaincy one last time
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