Namibia v South Africa, Rugby World Cup, September 22
September 21, 2011
Schalk Burger crossed for a hat-trick in the two sides' previous meeting © Getty Images
South Africa will continue their quest to top Pool C on Thursday as they face their African neighbours Namibia in North Shore City.
The Springboks followed up their opening victory over Wales with a far more convincing display as they defeated Fiji 49-3 to make it two victories from two in the ulta-competitive pool. With the physical Samoans next up for South Africa, coach Peter De Villiers will be eager to secure a comfortable bonus-point victory, free from injuries and complications.
Namibia have conceded 49 points in each of their opening two Rugby World Cup matches so far, against Fiji and Samoa, and will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the Springboks' crushing 105-13 victory when the two sides last met. With Wales still waiting on the horizon for the Welwitschias, the fixtures are not getting any easier for Johan Diergaardt's side as they search for their first Rugby World Cup win.
South Africa - Player to Watch: Winger Bryan Habana returns to the Springboks starting XV after recovering from a knee injury. He has been short of the kind of form that made him the most feared winger in world rugby a few years ago, but still poses the blistering pace to score tries from anywhere.
South Africa - Team News: Coach Peter de Villiers makes five changes to the Springboks side that easily overcame Fiji. Habana returns in place of JP Pietersen and Francois Hougaard replaces Fourie du Preez, while the other changes see Gio Aplon, flanker Willem Alberts and experienced tight-head prop CJ Van der Linde also come into the starting XV.
Namibia - Player to Watch: Jacques Nieuwenhuis, who made 41 metres in the opening match against Fiji, is recalled after missing the game Samoa. Expect anything from the 31-year-old: during the 2007 RWC he scored Namibia's first try in the tournament as they almost upset Ireland before earning his country's first red card at the World Cup when he was sent off against France in the following match.
Namibia - Team News: Namibia make six changes to the team that lost to Samoa with Nieuwenhuis recalled at No.8 and joined by fellow forwards Marius Visser, Bertus O'Callaghan, Nico Esterhuyse and Tinus du Plessis in the starting XV. Meanwhile Heine Bock comes in on the left wing as Diergaardt names the most experienced Namibian side in Test history, boasting a total of 264 caps.
Key Battle: Schalk Burger scored a hat-trick the last time the two sides met and the dynamic openside will again be looking to reap the benefits of what promises to be a pack going forward. However his opposite number and namesake, Jacques Burger, is one of the best defenders and toughest opponents about.
Trivia: Namibia's 105-13 loss to the Springboks in 2007 is still their biggest defeat in Test rugby.
Stats: Bryan Habana and Jaque Fourie are South Africa's leading try scorers at World Cups with eight.
"We can't afford to take this game lightly, and I mean that in all sincerity. A lot of these guys know our guys; they know us more intimately than a lot of other people that we get to play in world rugby." - Springboks assistant coach Gary Gold insists there will be no complacency from the World Champions.
"Everybody in Namibia has been so supportive. We know we are the underdogs, but we will get a lot of support. They are so proud of us. They are really backing us. A lot of people in South Africa have a soft spot for Namibia and will get behind us." - Jacques Burger is hopeful of strong support in North Shore.
Prediction: South Africa to claim an early advantage and savour the freedom of playing without much pressure. Habana to score a hat-trick as the Springboks secure a convincing win.
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