South Africa vs Samoa RWC 2015: Bismarck du Plessis and Ruan Pienaar among eight dropped after Japan defeat but Jean de Villiers survives

Zane Kirchner, Lwazi Mvovo, Kesse Kriel, Pat Lambie, Willem Alberts and Lood de Jager join Du Plessis and Pienaar in being replaced after shock Pool B loss

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Stung by its shock loss to Japan, South Africa dropped eight players on Wednesday but kept faith with under-fire veterans Jean de Villiers and Victor Matfield in the starting team for the Rugby World Cup game against Samoa.

De Villiers' captaincy and place in the side were questioned following the Springboks' 34-32 defeat to the Japanese, in what ranks as the biggest upset in the tournament's history.

"It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life to make," Meyer said at the team announcement in Birmingham.

"I had a long and hard chat with him and I just decided as a coach — and I will stand by my decision — that 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."


The 38-year-old Matfield has been another senior player to cop criticism, but he was also retained and reunited with Eben Etzebeth in the second row. Meyer picked a new halfback combination in Fourie du Preez and Handre Pollard, recalled No. 8 Duane Vermeulen for his first test this year as well as backs Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen and Damian de Allende, and dropped hooker Bismarck du Plessis for Adriaan Strauss.

Meyer's decision to select some fringe players against Japan backfired, but he has picked his strongest team for the Springboks' second Pool B match in Birmingham on Saturday.

"We deserve all the criticism. It is unacceptable for the Springboks. We are a proud nation and a proud team," Meyer said.

"We have had immense support from South Africa, even if we don't deserve it, and I just want to thank all the guys that supported us. I've probably had more emails and SMSes than ever in my life, even more than when we beat the All Blacks."

De Villiers was shifted to outside center to make room for De Allende, and Schalk Burger moves from No. 8 to flanker for the inclusion of Vermeulen, who underwent neck surgery in early July.

"Everyone has been getting on the bandwagon," said hooker Schalk Brits, who is among the replacements. "We have seen all the cartoons, sketches, jokes and pictures. Come Saturday, we need to put all that behind us and do what we have done for the last 10 years."

Flanker Willem Alberts was the only player not considered, because of a calf injury picked up the day before the Japan game in Brighton. He will be reassessed early next week.

South Africa squad to face Samoa on Saturday 26 September:

Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (captain), Damian De Allende, Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Fourie du Preez; Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw; Victor Matfield, Eben Etzebeth; Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira.

Reserves: Schalk Brits, Trevor Nyakane, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Siya Kolisi, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jesse Kriel.