Springboks make two changes for third-place play-off match against Argentina on Friday: 8pm kick off
Lock Victor Matfield returns for final ever appearance on the international stage
Ruan Pienaar is in for Fourie de Preez at scrum-half
South Africa have made two changes to the team which narrowly lost out to New Zealand in last week’s Rugby World Cup semi-final for their third-place play-off match against Argentina on Friday.
Victor Matfield is the headline returnee, the 38-year-old all-time record cap holder is set to captain the Springboks on his final ever appearance on the international stage, while Ruan Pienaar is in for Fourie de Preez at scrum-half.
Coach Heyneke Meyer gave his players three days off following their gut-wrenching 20-18 defeat by New Zealand last time out, but they were back in training at their Guildford base on Wednesday.
While it will undoubtedly be a big night for Matfield, Bryan Habana will be aiming for his own personal celebration as he looks for a record-breaking 16th World Cup try on Friday night, with the flying Toulon man, at 32, is potentially playing his last ever World Cup game and is currently tied at the top with New Zealand stalwart Jonah Lomu on 15 tries.
Fly-half Pat Lambie could also win his 50th cap if he comes off the bench.
Much of the pre-game discussion has surrounded whether South Africa can send out their departing legends on a high, while Argentina look to spoil the party and bounce back from their 29-15 defeat at the hands of Australia on Sunday.
But history suggests the ‘Boks will come out on top, with Argentina enjoying just one win over their southern hemisphere rivals in their entire list of international head-to-heads.
Utility back Jesse Kriel, 21, has told the media that the younger players in the squad will be eager to beat the Pumas so their veteran stars can end their international careers on the right note.
“I don’t think we will lack for motivation,” he said of the often criticised third-placed play-off clash.
“Some of the older players might be playing their last game and we have to play for their respect and just showing them how much they really mean to South Africa.
“It’s a big burden on our shoulders to give them a good performance and to send them off on a good note.”
South Africa: Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Ruan Pienaar; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield (capt), Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Jannie du Plessis, Lood de Jager, Willem Alberts, Rudy Paige, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.
Argentina: Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Santiago Cordero, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Horacio Agulla, Nicolas Sanchez (capt), Tomas Cubelli; Marcos Ayerza, Julian Montoya, Ramiro Herrera, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lavanini, Javier Ortega Desio, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Juan Manuel Leguizamon.
Replacements: Lucas Noguera, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Juan Figallo, Guido Petti, Facundo Isa, Martin Landajo, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Juan Pablo Socino.