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By Mark Gleeson
BIRMINGHAM, England, Sept 23 (Reuters) – South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer rung the changes on Wednesday as he named his side for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup clash with Samoa but captain Jean de Villiers was spared the axe.
More than half the team from the shock 34-32 defeat by Japan in Brighton were dropped in a major overhaul as South Africa sought to deal with the fallout from the embarrassing setback in their opening match of the tournament.
The casualties includes veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis, fullback Zane Kirchner, centre Jesse Kriel, who loses his place at outside centre to De Villiers, and the halfback pairing of Ruan Pienaar and Pat Lambie.
Also dropped were lock Lood de Jager, winger Lwazi Mvovo and Pieter-Steph du Toit, who played at flanker against the Japanese.
Damian de Allende comes in at inside centre with De Villiers moved wider while veteran scrumhalf Fourie du Preez will start his first test in more than a year, partnered by 20-year-old flyhalf Handre Pollard. They have played together just once before in June last year.
Willie le Roux at fullback and JP Pietersen on the wing were form choices for Saturday’s Pool B match at Villa Park while the returns of Eben Etzebeth and Duane Vermeulen after injury were expected.
Adriaan Strauss will win his 50th cap as Meyer stuck with his pre-World Cup promise to rotate his hookers.
The decision to keep the 34-year-old De Villiers was a tough one.
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“I thought long and hard but I did not want to make an emotional decision. It is a must-win game. I had a long and hard chat with Jean,” Meyer said.
“I just decided as a coach that if you going into a fight and you have to win, with the whole country depending on it, if you are going into that fight you want to have a guy with you has had six knee operations and has comeback to win over 100 caps playing for me.
“I know he is a fighter and it’s best for the team. I know it’s a right choice.”
Team: 1-Tendai Mtawarira, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 5-Victor Matfield, 6-Francois Louw, 7-Schalk Burger, 8-Duane Vermeulen; 9-Fourie du Preez, 10-Handre Pollard, 11-Bryan Habana, 12-Damian de Allende, 13-Jean de Villiers (captain), 14-JP Pietersen, 15-Willie le Roux.
Cape Town – Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has told flyhalf Handre Pollard that he will be the deciding factor in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup clash against Samoa on Saturday.
The 21-year-old was on Wednesday picked at pivot while Patrick Lambie moves to the bench, and Meyer revealed at Wednesday’s team announcement that he had spoken privately to Pollard and told him that he would have the biggest say in the match.
Meyer referred to Pollard as “one of the best attacking flyhalves in the world”, but added that his defensive capabilities would also be a major factor in the match.
“They (Samoa) like to attack the No 10 channel,” Meyer said.
The coach added that he was excited about the prospect of the halfback pairing of Pollard and Fourie du Preez working together.
Pollard replaced Lambie in the 58th minute against Japan on Saturday when the Boks were leading 22-19.
Saturday’s clash kicks off at 17:45.
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