15 Sep 2011

Four changes forced on Boks by injury

8:19 am on 15 September 2011

Veteran lock Bakkies Botha is a surprise inclusion in South Africa's rugby team to play Fiji in their World Cup Pool match in Wellington on Saturday.

Botha has been troubled by a chronic Achilles tendon injury since he arrived in New Zealand and the Springboks management had suggested all week that he might not be available for the match against the Pacific islanders.

But coach Peter de Villiers, however, was forced to leave out four of the players from the team that beat Wales 17-16 in South Africa's opening match in Wellington last Sunday - vice-captain Victor Matfield, utility back Butch James, winger Bryan Habana and centre Jean De Villiers.

The Springboks have made four changes to their starting line-up and two more on the bench with the quartet all unavailable for selection, while a fifth player, Johann Muller, will undergo a late fitness test on a tight hamstring. If he is unavailable he will be replaced on the bench by Francois Louw.

Botha returns to take Matfield's place while Odwa Ndungane is on the left wing for Habana.

Pat Lambie starts at fullback with Francois Steyn moving to fill De Villiers' boots at second five eighth, while James' place on the bench is taken by the versatile Ruan Pienaar.

In two tactical changes, Gurthrö Steenkamp starts at loosehead prop in place of Tendai Mtawarira, who drops to the bench, while the return to a conventional four/three split between forwards and backs among the replacements opens the way for Juan de Jongh to make a first appearance on a Rugby World Cup teamsheet.

Coach Peter De Villiers says Willem Alberts will act as a replacement lock if Muller failed to recover sufficiently.

The Springboks have played Fiji twice before, winning both games. In 1996 they recorded a 43-18 win in Pretoria before recording a momentarily tense, 37-20 victory over Fiji in the quarterfinals of the 2007 tournament.