Sunday 23 October 2016

Pietersen back to face Wales

Springboks winger JP Pietersen returns
Springboks winger JP Pietersen returns

South Africa winger JP Pietersen's return from injury is the only change to Heyneke Meyer's team to face Wales in Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final at Twickenham.

The return of Pietersen, who missed the 64-0 rout of the United States in the Springboks' final pool match a week ago, has recovered well from his knee injury and will resume service on the right wing.

That means Bryan Habana moves to the left wing as he looks to surpass Jonah Lomu's record World Cup try tally, having drawn level with the New Zealander with a hat-trick against the United States, while Lwazi Mvovo drops out of the match-day 23.

"JP and Bryan have been in superb form and are playing some of the best rugby of their lives," Meyer told reporters.

"It made sense to reunite Bryan and JP ... it brings a lot of experience to our backline, which has been doing well despite the relative inexperience of (flyhalf) Handre Pollard, (and centres) Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel."

Experienced lock Victor Matfield has not recovered in time from the hamstring injury he picked up in the Boks' second pool game against Samoa, meaning that young pairing of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager start in the second row.

"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," Meyer said.

The bench shows four changes, with the experienced quartet of hooker Adriaan Strauss, prop Jannie du Plessis, scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and flyhalf Pat Lambie all returning.

Meyer believes the game will be decided in the final 20 minutes and wants old heads off the bench at that stage.

"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 knockout match is great," Meyer said.

"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."

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