Matfield to skipper Springboks against Italy
June 15, 2010
Matfield will lead his country for the 11th time against Italy this weekend © Getty Images
Veteran lock Victor Matfield will lead a new-look South Africa side against Italy in Witbank on Saturday that includes Butch James for the first time in almost two years.
The 33-year-old, who has captained the Springboks on 10 previous occasions, takes the armband from John Smit, who suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up ahead of the 42-17 win over France last weekend. Bakkies Botha, who has recovered from minor knee surgery and also served a four-week suspension, will reunite with Matfield at lock, while Dewald Potgieter replaces Francois Louw on the flank.
Matfield has plenty of experience as a captain having skippered the Bulls to three Super 14 titles and he notably led his country to an historic victory over New Zealand in Dunedin during the 2008 Tri Nations. And the 33-year-old will be looking for other senior players to provide their own leadership qualities.
"It is very special to lead your country," Matfield said. "I don't intend to do much different than what I do for the Bulls. I may be the guy leading the team out but there is a group of senior players who are there to assist and ensure that we do what we have to do. I work very closely with John too so it will be an easy transition for me to lead the team in the Test."
In the front row, Jannie du Plessis and Chiliboy Ralepelle take over from BJ Botha and Smit. Other changes see Butch James and Jean de Villiers come in at centre, pushing Wynand Olivier and Jaque Fourie out of the team.
"Butch is starting at centre, but we might also make use of the opportunity to have a look at him at flyhalf during the match," said South Africa coach Peter de Villiers. "I also would like to give Ruan a run at scrum-half."
There are also five changes on the bench - uncapped Bandise Maku provides cover at hooker, CJ van der Linde returns after missing the France game, Alistair Hargreaves replaces Flip van der Merwe, Ryan Kankowski comes in for Dewald Potgieter and Bjorn Basson steps up after De Villiers' promotion.
De Villiers added, "Alistair is a number five lock and I want him to learn as much as he can from Victor. Andries Bekker grew so much as understudy to Vic and I want the same for Alistair."
South Africa team to face Italy:
Replacements: Bandise Maku, CJ van der Linde, Alistair Hargreaves, Ryan Kankowski, Ruan Pienaar, Juan de Jongh, Bjorn Basson.