AP/Press Association Images Matfield and Botha [right] helped the 'Boks to success over the Lions in 2009.

Former 7s star Hendricks set for 'Boks debut as Bakkies and Matfield reunite

Head coach Heyneke Meyer has named a starting team featuring 762 Test caps to face the ‘World XV’.

CORNAL HENDRICKS IS set for his South Africa debut in the 15-man code against a ‘World XV’ in Cape Town on Saturday [KO 4.00pm Irish time], the year after being selected as the leading sevens player in the country.

The 26-year-old has impressed in his first Super Rugby season for the Cheetahs, scoring four tries in 10 starts. Hendricks was South Africa’s Sevens Player of the Year for 2013, having lit up the IRB World Series with the Blitzbokke.

The 6ft 2ins wing did have a background in union before the current campaign, racking up appearances for the Boland Cavaliers in the Vodacom and Currie Cups. Still, his leap into the ‘Boks set-up would not have been possible without the developmental step of playing international sevens rugby.

Cornal is a player I’ve been following for some time and I thought he made a very good transition from sevens to the 15-man code earlier this year,” says South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer.

“He’s big and very fast, and hopefully we’ll be able to provide him with some space to attack in. The Springbok Sevens can be very proud of the way in which they aided in his development to a top-class player.”

While the latest example of a sevens player transitioning into union is unlikely to force the IRFU into a u-turn on their policy of having no mens’ sevens team, there is food for thought in Hendricks’ progression.

Rugby Union - 2012 Glasgow Sevens - Day Two - Scotstoun Stadium PA Archive / Press Association Images Hendricks has come through South Africa's sevens set-up. PA Archive / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Meanwhile, the Springboks have selected 34-year-old Bakkies Botha alongside 37-year-old captain Victor Matfield in the second row for the clash against the ‘World XV’, reuniting the pair at international level for the first time since 2011.

There is also an international recall for flanker Schalk Burger, who last played for the ‘Boks against Australia in the 2011 World Cup quarter-final and has since come through a life-threatening battle with bacterial meningitis.

Frans Steyn, Schalk Brits, Lwazi Mvovo and Johan Goosen are all back in Meyer’s match-day squad after year-long absences. In line with the head coach’s intention of increasing the level of experience in the Springboks set-up, there are a total of 762 Test caps in the starting team, with a further 248 on the bench.

South Africa: Willie le Roux; Cornal Hendricks, JP Pietersen, Francois Steyn, Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis; Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield (capt.); Francois Louw, Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Schalk Brits, Gurthro Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez, Johan Goosen, Lwazi Mvovo.

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