South Africa unchanged for All Blacks in Semi-final

Japan hooker Shota Horie tackles Springbok lock Victor Matfield

South Africa’s head coach Heyneke Meyer has retained the starting team that beat Wales for their Rugby World Cup Semi-final against New Zealand’s All Blacks at Twickenham in London.

The only change to the match day 23 is the return of Victor Matfield who comes in on the replacements bench for Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Matfield has recovered from a hamstring injury and returns to the side which adds experience to the squad.

This is the first time since November 2014 that Meyer has been able to name an unchanged team for back-to-back Tests and only the sixth time since his appointment in 2012.

“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 and, as we saw last weekend against Wales, when the replacements did very well towards the end of the match, this will be crucial. His influence will also be pivotal against a strong New Zealand line-out.”

Meyer said his team is braced for a massive onslaught on Saturday.

“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.

“But we have to believe we can beat them otherwise we’ll be wasting our time on Saturday. We will have to be at our ultimate best and although we played some excellent rugby against Wales, there are always things to improve on.

“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.

“Everyone in our group is massively excited about Saturday’s challenge. For many players this will be an once-in-a-lifetime occasion and we want to go out there and make it count in front of what will be a magnificent crowd at a superb stadium.”

Lood de Jager will undergo a late fitness assessment on Friday after which a call on his availability will be made. If he can’t play, Matfield will start with Pieter-Steph du Toit on the bench.

South Africa

15. Willie Le Roux 14. JP Pietersen 13. Jesse Kriel 12. Damian De Allende 11. Bryan Habana 10. Handre Pollard 9. Fourie Du Preez 8. Duane Vermuelen 7. Schalk Burger 6. Francois Louw 5. Lood de Jager 4. Eben Etzebeth 3. Frans Malherbe 2. Bismarck du Plessis 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements . 16. Adriaan Strauss 17. Trevor Nyakane 18. Jannie Du Plessis 19. Victor Matfield 20. Willem Alberts 21. Ruan Pienaar 22. Pat Lambie 23. Jan Serfontein

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