Heyneke Meyer has recalled the big guns but will put his job on the line by keeping faith with “fighter” and captain Jean De Villiers for South Africa’s crucial World Cup clash with Samoa.
South Africa face Samoa at Villa Park on Saturday, desperate to grind their World Cup campaign back into gear after last weekend’s stunning 34-32 defeat to Japan.
Head coach Meyer admitted opting against dropping skipper De Villiers was among the toughest decisions of his career, accepting that should the call backfire his job will be under huge threat.
“It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life to make,” said Meyer on retaining De Villiers in his starting line-up.
“You are almost in a lose-lose situation because if you don’t pick your captain and you lose, they say you should have picked your captain, and if you do pick your captain and you lose, then you shouldn’t have stuck with your captain. It’s not an emotional decision.”
6 survivors from 2007 World Cup winning squad in #Springbok XV v Samoa. Jean de Villiers was injured, Bismarck du Plessis rested.
— Gavin Cummiskey (@Cumoski) September 23, 2015
Centre De Villiers dislocated his knee against Wales in November but has battled back admirably to take his place in South Africa’s final World Cup squad.
The 34-year-old was awful against Japan but unlike eight of his team-mates, he’s been spared the axe.
“I thought about it long and hard and came to the conclusion that this is a must-win game and who are you going to back?” said Meyer.
“If you go into a fight that you have to win, that your whole career and whole country depends on, I really want to take a guy that has had six knee operations.”
No 8 Duane Vermeulen, full-back Willie Le Roux and scrum-half Fourie Du Preez should make a big difference for the Boks.
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England are set to overhaul their midfield by bringing in Sam Burgess and Owen Farrell for Saturday’s critical World Cup showdown with the aim of meeting Wales’ power game head-on.
Burgess and Brad Barritt are ready to forge a new centre pairing after Jonathan Joseph was ruled out of the clash with a chest injury, while Farrell has been picked ahead of George Ford at fly-half.
Joseph is continuing treatment on the pectoral muscle problem suffered during Friday’s bonus-point victory over Fiji and England retain hope that he still has a role to play in the group stage.
The Farrell, Burgess, Barritt axis will provide a muscular presence in the looming gainline war at Twickenham and their inclusion extends beyond the desire to simply contain the Welsh.
The selection is born out of a belief that the game must initially be taken to Wales using powerful ball carriers with the ultimate objective of wearing down Warren Gatland’s men.
Suspect if Joseph been fit, Ford would retain place. But with Burgess coming in, they’ve reverted to caution at 10. Makes it interesting!
— Dan Roan (@danroan) September 22, 2015
The knowledge that Wales will use a defensive system that deploys 14 players in a line with the fullback patrolling the space behind means England must force a path through rather than seek to circumnavigate the wall of red shirts.
Influential in the management’s thinking is the 21-16 victory in Cardiff in February, a highlight of Stuart Lancaster’s reign that was headlined by Joseph’s superb try but was ultimately founded on the front foot momentum generated by their ball carriers.
Once the heavyweight collisions have unfolded and the match enters the decisive final quarter, reinforcements are set to be summoned from the bench in the manner that proved so successful in the 35-11 victory over Fiji.
The selection of Burgess, who has played only 112 minutes of Test rugby after converting from league 10 months ago, is viewed as a gamble by many given he will be lining-up opposite veteran British and Irish Lion Jamie Roberts, but England’s belief in the 26-year-old is steadfast after witnessing his development throughout the summer.
Any flaws are sure to be exposed by 70-cap battering ram Roberts, who will have watched with interest how he strayed out of position in defence on his debut against France last month.
While the Six Nations victory at the Millennium Stadium helped shape Lancaster’s thinking in selection, it is the defeat at the same venue two years earlier that is fuelling Tom Wood’s desire to topple Wales.
England were routed 30-3 in a chastening final day to the Championship that saw them denied the Grand Slam and the result continues to haunt Wood, even though redemption came in February.
“This match stands out and we don’t try and build it up,” the Northampton blindside flanker said. “On the back of that 2013 loss we have earmarked this fixture a little bit because our pride was severely damaged that day and we took an absolute pasting in the press.
“I don’t think we played that badly and were in the fight for 50 minutes, but unfortunately the dam broke and the floodgates opened. A lot of us paid a heavy price in Lions selection for that summer. We suffered that day and don’t want to go through it again.”
Argentina lock Mariano Galarza has received a nine-week ban and will miss the remainder of the World Cup.
Galarza was cited for making contact “with the eye or eye area” of New Zealand forward Brodie Retallick during last Sunday’s Pool C game between the countries at Wembley.
In a statement, Rugby World Cup Limited said: “Galarza denied the act of foul play.
“Having conducted a detailed review of all the available evidence, including all camera angles and additional evidence, including from Retallick, the player and submissions from his representatives, the judicial officer Christopher Quinlan QC upheld the citing on the basis that the player had committed the act of foul play.
— Diego Albanese (@albanesediego) September 23, 2015
“With respect to the sanction, the judicial officer deemed the act of foul play merited a low-end entry point of 12 weeks.
“Due to the need to deter such acts of foul play, he added an additional period of one week.
“However, taking into account mitigating factors including his excellent disciplinary record, the judicial officer reduced the suspension to a period of nine weeks.”
Galarza’s ban takes effect immediately, and he cannot play again until November 26.
That means the Gloucester forward will miss part of his club’s campaign as his suspension does not expire until more than three weeks after the World Cup final.
.Galarza has 48 hours in which to appeal once he has received the written decision.