Matfield to captain Boks at World Cup send-off

The 38-year-old Matfield, making his 127th Test appearance, replaces Fourie du Preez as skipper after the scrum-half suffered a tournament-ending injury in last weekend's 20-18 semi-final defeat by New Zealand at Twickenham.

Victor Matfield.   -  Getty Images

Veteran lock Victor Matfield will captain South Africa in probably his last appearance for the Springboks when they take on Argentina in the World Cup third place play-off on Friday.

The 38-year-old Matfield, making his 127th Test appearance, replaces Fourie du Preez as skipper after the scrum-half suffered a tournament-ending injury in last weekend's 20-18 semi-final defeat by New Zealand at Twickenham.

Matfield, a World Cup-winner in 2007, has come in for Lood de Jager in the second row, with Ruan Pienaar taking over from du Preez in the only other change to the Springboks' starting line-up for the game at London's Olympic Stadium.

Matfield retired after the 2011 World Cup but returned last year with the Bulls following encouragement from South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer to resume his career.

Second row great Matfield made his Test debut on June 30, 2001 against Italy.

His Test career, which on Friday will be 14 years and 122 days, will be the longest in Springbok rugby.

But fellow 2007 World Cup-winner du Preez did not even make the bench after suffering a swollen eye and broken tooth against the All Blacks.

Du Preez, also persuaded to return by Meyer, said after the semi-final that it was probably his last Springbok appearance.

De Jager, who started that match, has been struggling with a tendon injury in his foot. He is now among the replacements, with Rudy Paige the reserve scrum-half following Pienaar's promotion.

Shortly after the semi-final loss, Meyer dismissed the importance of the 'bronze final'.

"It does not mean anything to me. It is like kissing your sister," he said.

Critical Match

However, Meyer adopted a different tone after naming his strongest possible side for Friday's fixture.

"This is a critical match for us and we owe it to ourselves and our supporters to end the season on a high note," said Meyer as he unveiled his side on Wednesday.

Argentina beat South Africa 37-25 in Durban in August -- their first victory over the Springboks -- and Meyer added: "The Pumas have made massive strides in recent years and we've experienced first-hand how tough an opponent they can be."

Meyer, who presided over South Africa's shock 34-32 defeat by Japan in their Pool opener -- the biggest upset in World Cup history -- said he had thought about giving squad players a run on Friday but had ultimately taken the view he should deploy his best side.

"I considered fielding a much-changed team and weighed the pros and cons but ultimately decided the team that has grown together over the past few weeks was the one with the best chance of delivering victory for our supporters," he explained.

"It is my task to get them in the right frame of mind after the disappointment of last weekend and to ensure we bounce back with a good win after a tough week.

"Although our aim was always to win the competition, we have the opportunity to finish our campaign on a high and that is what we will be aiming for against a very good Argentinean side," Meyer added.

Argentina were to name their side later Wednesday.

South Africa (15-1)

Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Ruan Pienaar; Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw; Victor Matfield (capt), Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Jannie du Plessis, Lood de Jager, Willem Alberts, Rudy Paige, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

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