The Springboks have made several changes to their matchday squad for Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks in Auckland, with experienced second-row Eben Etzebeth appointed as captain.
Bok head coach Jacques Nienaber has named 10 of the 14 players who flew out to New Zealand a week ago to acclimatise to the conditions and time zone in his matchday squad.
Of that group, nine are in the starting line-up, including Etzebeth and lock partner Lood de Jager as well as the back-row of Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert and Jasper Wiese. Malcolm Marx, who was also amongst the advanced travelling contingent, has been named as the replacement hooker.
In the backline, Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe are the starting wings, while Damian de Allende reunites with Lukhanyo Am in their Rugby World Cup-winning midfield combination.
Full-back Willie Le Roux, Am, Damian Willemse (fly-half) and the front-row of Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe (props), and Bongi Mbonambi (hooker) will all start after participating in the season-opener against Australia in Pretoria last Saturday, which the Springboks won 43-12.
Six/two split on replacements bench again
Nienaber has opted for a six/two, forwards/backs split again on the Boks‘ replacements bench, which mainly consists of players who featured against the Wallabies.
That includes Thomas du Toit and Vincent Koch, who are the back-up props, Duane Vermeulen (number eight), RG Snyman (lock) and two backs in Manie Libbok (fly-half) and Grant Williams, who can provide cover at scrum-half and wing.
“We planned to select a squad with a few key combinations of players who are fully acclimatised and settled in New Zealand, while also selecting some players who started last week, and we are pleased with the balance we were able to strike with this squad,” said Nienaber.
“This allows us to give some players their first taste of international rugby this season alongside a group of players who come off a physical clash against the Wallabies, and we believe this will be beneficial against a top opponent in the All Blacks.
“The fact that we can give a few other players in the bigger squad a run this weekend is fantastic as we want to give as many players as possible game time with an eye on doing well in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and further ahead in the Rugby World Cup.”
Nienaber is excited by Etzebeth’s return to action after his recovery from a shoulder injury.
“Eben has been working very hard in the last few months to make a full recovery from his shoulder injury, and it’s great to see him return to the field in this important fixture,” he said.
“He’s a vastly experienced player with 110 Test caps, he’s captained the Springboks before, and he has been with the group of players in New Zealand for over a week, so he is the ideal person to lead the team this weekend.”
Preparing for a tough test
Looking forward to the clash against New Zealand, Nienaber said the Boks expect a thorough test from their arch-rivals.
“New Zealand have a strong pack of forwards and dangerous backs, and they showed last week what they can do when they have the space to convert their chances into points,” he added.
“We need to deliver a strong performance in all departments, and our defence needs to be solid against them. This is an important match for both teams with each team only playing three games in the competition this season.”
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21 Duane Vermeulen, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Manie Libbok
Date: Saturday, July 15
Venue: Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Kick-off: 19:05 local (08:05 BST, 07:05 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (RA), Pierre Brousset (FFR)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)