De Villiers looks to forward force
September 9, 2011
Matfield will win his 108th cap against Wales © Getty Images
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has put an emphasis on forward power for Sunday's World Cup clash against Wales.
Although lock Bakkies Botha has lost his battle to be fit for the game due to an Achilles problem, De Villiers' selection makes no secret of how South Africa might attack their opening Pool D opponents. While Danie Rossouw replaces Botha and partners Victor Matfield in the second-row, De Villiers' intentions are clear through a bench combination that features five forwards, including an entire front-row.
The substitutes include flanker Willem Alberts, who played a starring role in successfully turning around a 20-9 deficit for South Africa at the Millennium Stadium last November.
"The first game, there are a few things we want to try out. I believe we've got a really strong bench," said De Villiers. "You like to play to your strengths, and that's the reason we went for that (five forwards). We know what we want to achieve out of this game, and the make-up of the bench actually goes for that."
Matfield, who has won a Springboks record 107 caps, features in the starting line-up despite suffering from a hamstring niggle earlier this week. De Villiers has named the most experienced Springboks team in history, boasting a combined total of 815 caps. It surpasses the previous highest total of 810 against Australia in Durban last month.
There are five changes from South Africa's last game, an 18-5 Tri-Nations victory over New Zealand three weeks ago, with Rossouw, fullback Frans Steyn, prop Tendai Mtawarira, skipper John Smit and flanker Schalk Burger all recalled.
There are 11 players in the starting XV who were part of South Africa's victorious 2007 World Cup squad, including wing Bryan Habana, who needs one try to break Joost van der Westhuizen's Springboks Test record of 38 touchdowns.
South Africa have won 23 of their previous 25 games against Wales, although Sunday's encounter is their first World Cup meeting. For skipper Smit, it a case of thirsting for South Africa's World Cup kick-off as they bid to become the first team in history to successfully defend the title.
"It has taken ages to get to this, and it's also pretty weird playing on a Sunday," he said. "Today's (team) announcement for us on a Friday is really a Thursday in a Test week, so in a couple more days we will get to feel the fever a little bit.
"We will watch the opening match and a couple of games this weekend, and by the time it gets to Sunday the boys will pretty well know what their purpose is."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.