Published: Oct 5, 3:22p ET
Updated: Oct 5, 5:04p ET

Botha facing World Cup exit after missing quarterfinal

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - South Africa lock Bakkies Botha may be out of the Rugby World Cup after failing to make the squad for Sunday's quarterfinal against Australia.

Coach Peter de Villiers announced three changes Thursday to the starting lineup that held off Samoa in the Springboks' last pool match but Botha's anticipated return from a hamstring injury was thwarted by a recurrence of an earlier Achilles problem in training.

"It might mean that his tournament will be over," De Villiers said. "We nursed his hamstring but he came down badly and his Achilles went up again. It's just one of those accidents you get. He had not very good support when he came down and it was about 7 tons of weight on it."

De Villiers said Botha may not be fit to play again even if the defending champion Springboks progress.

The veteran Botha missed South Africa's opener against Wales and the Samoa match, appearing only against Namibia and Fiji at this World Cup.

His 2007 World Cup-winning secondrow partner Victor Matfield will again play alongside Danie Rossouw in Wellington.

Elsewhere, captain John Smit returns at hooker to push Bismark du Plessis to the bench, and Jean de Villiers takes his favored inside center role in place of the injured Frans Steyn, who has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament.

De Villiers called up loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp for Tendai Mtawarira but denied their was any problem with his giant frontrower.

"There's nothing wrong with Tendai," De Villiers said. "There's only space for 22 players" in the squad.

Winger JP Pietersen was included in the starting lineup subject to fitness, with Francois Hougaard named among the reserves and on standby to start if Pietersen doesn't recover from a bruised tendon in his knee.

"JP is not one hundred percent as yet, but we'll give him all the time that we can to prove his fitness and we just hope that he will get through," he said. "Because JP knows the system so well and the guys beside him know him so well, it would be good for us if he could come through."

It is the most experienced South Africa squad ever selected, with a combined 836 test caps - 21 more than the previous Springboks record of 815 which lined up in the opening World Cup win over Wales.

The starting lineup contains eight players who started in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final, plus three other players who were part of that winning squad.

"Certainly it's quite an experienced team, but it only really counts if we can get the business done on Sunday," Smit said.

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South Africa: Pat Lambie, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Pierre Spies, Schalk Burger, Heinrich Brussow, Victor Matfield (captain), Danie Rossouw, Jannie du Plessis, John Smit, Gurthro Steenkamp. Reserves: Bismarck du Plessis, CJ van der Linde, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Francois Hougaard, Butch James, Gio Aplon.

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