Rugby World Cup 2011: John Smit returns for South Africa

John Smit
Smit has won 103 caps for the Springboks during an 11-year career

Captain John Smit returns to lead South Africa in Sunday's World Cup quarter-final against Australia.

Wingers JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana have passed fitness tests but Bakkies Botha is out with an Achilles injury and could be out of the tournament.

Australia full-back Kurtley Beale and winger Digby Ioane have recovered from hamstring and thumb injuries to start.

Pat McCabe returns from a shoulder injury at centre while Radike Samo reverts to the back of the scrum.

The number eight was used as a makeshift winger in Australia's 68-22 pool victory over Russia but he will be back in more familiar surroundings in Wellington as the Wallabies make five changes to their pack.

Flanker Rocky Elsom, second row Dan Vickerman, tighthead Ben Alexander and loosehead Sekope Kepu are all reinstated.

"We've gone with the players and the combinations, which have served us best through the year to date," said Australia coach Robbie Deans.

The Springboks have tinkered with their pack too, captain Smit replacing Bismarck du Plessis, while Gurthro Steenkamp comes in at loose-head prop for Tendai Mtawarira, who drops out of the squad.

The backline shows only one change, Jean de Villiers named at centre in place of the injured Frans Steyn.

The team is the most experienced Springbok team ever, featuring 836 caps, surpassing the previous record of 815 posted against Wales in the team's opening pool match.

The starting XV includes eight players who started the 2007 World Cup final, with a further three on the bench.

Only full-back Pat Lambie, fly-half Morne Steyn and flanker Heinrich Brussow of the starting team were not involved in 2007, while Pierre Spies was originally selected but had to withdraw through illness.

But Botha missed out on the chance to get his World Cup campaign back on the road, landing nastily in training on Wednesday.

"It was the worst part of my day," coach Peter de Villiers said. "At the first line-out, [Botha] injured himself again. He landed badly, and his Achilles flamed up again.

"It was a sad day for myself and for Bakkies. It might mean that his tournament is over."

De Villiers changed his usual split of five forwards and two backs on the bench to include three backs as extra cover for winger Pietersen, who has also been battling injury.

"JP's not 100% as yet, but we give him all the time we can to prove his fitness and we just hope he'll get through," De Villiers said. "JP knows the system so well and the guys inside him know him so well, it would be good if he came through."

De Villiers said that Australia were "pretty much the favourites" after having beaten the Springboks in their last four encounters.

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

Australia team: Kurtley Beale; James O'Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Dan Vickerman, Radike Semo, James Horwill, Rocky Elsom, David Pocock. Replacements: Tatafu Polota Nau, James Slipper, Nathan Sharpe, Ben McCalman, Luke Burgess, Berrick Barnes, Anthony Fainga'a.

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