Head coach Jacques Nienaber has named a new-look Springbok team to take on Argentina in the opening Rugby Championship match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
Nienaber has made 12 changes to the matchday squad that won the third and final Test in the British & Irish Lions Series in Cape Town. It includes 10 changes to the starting team, which features a fresh backline and front row, and two changes on the replacements bench.
With Argentina expected to pose a serious physical challenge, the Springbok coach opted for a six-two split of forwards amongst the replacements.
The only players who retained their places in the starting team from the final Test against the British & Irish Lions last weekend were Springbok captain Siya Kolisi (flank), Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager (both locks), Japer Wiese (No 8) and Cobus Reinach (scrumhalf).
The changes to the pack of forwards see Ox Nché – who has recovered from his neck injury – and Wilco Louw (both props) join forces with debutant Joseph Dweba in the front row, replacing Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Bongi Mbonambi respectively, while Kwagga Smith replaces Franco Mostert at blindside flank in a loose trio with Kolisi and Wiese.
Elton Jantjies starts at flyhalf in a halfback pairing with Reinach, replacing Handré Pollard, while Frans Steyn – needing nine more points to reach 150 career points – and Jesse Kriel will join forces in the midfield in place of Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am.
The other changes in the backline see Damian Willemse replace Willie le Roux at fullback, while Sbu Nkosi and Aphelele Fassi – who made his Springbok debut against Georgia last month – will start at wing in place of Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi respectively.
On the replacements bench, Marvin Orie and Dan du Preez have been drafted in to provide cover at lock and loose forward respectively, while the two backline replacements are Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf) and Morné Steyn (flyhalf).
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“It is a long season, so it’s important that we manage the players well and rotate our squad to ensure that everyone gets sufficient game time and rest,” said Nienaber.
“We have a talented squad, and we are excited to see some of the players get a chance to show what they can do against a tough Argentinean outfit.
“Most of the players in this matchday squad have been with us since our conditioning camp in Bloemfontein in June, and they’ve been working hard at training and deserve this opportunity to take the field.
“This is a big game for us, and we are looking forward to seeing what these player combinations will deliver as we begin our Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign.”
Nienaber expected a tough Test against Los Pumas and said being physical and accurate in their execution were key factors going into the match.
“Argentina are very physical, so we need to stand up to that challenge in every contest,” said Nienaber.
“Their forward pack is renowned for making their presence felt, so our set pieces need to be spot-on and it will be important to dominate at the contact points.
“All-in-all we need to deliver an accurate performance all around and it is vital that we capitalise on the opportunities we have to score points.”
Andrew Brace (Ireland) will referee the match, with Karl Dickson (England) and AJ Jacobs (South Africa) serving as his assistant referees, while Tom Foley (Wales) will be on Television Match Official duty.
Springbok team to face Argentina in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship:
15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 10 caps, 5pts (1t)
14 – Sbu Nkosi (Cell C Sharks) – 11 caps, 40 pts (8t)
13 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles, Japan) – 47 caps, 60 pts (12t)
12 – Frans Steyn (Toyota Cheetahs) – 68 caps, 141 pts (11t, 7c, 21p, 3d)
11 – Aphelele Fassi (Cell C Sharks) – 1 cap, 5pts (1t)
10 – Elton Jantjies (vice-captain – Pau, France) – 39 caps, 283 pts (2t, 63c, 49p)
9 – Cobus Reinach (Montpellier) – 16 caps, 35pts (7t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 3 caps, 0 pts
7 – Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo) – 10 caps, 5 pts (1t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 54 caps, 30 pts (6t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks) – 48 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Toulon) – 89 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Wilco Louw (Harlequins, England) – 13 caps, 0 pts
2 – Joseph Dweba (Bordeaux, France) – uncapped
1 – Ox Nché (Cell C Sharks) – 3 caps, 0 pts
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 37 caps, 30 pts (6t)
17 – Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls) – 46 caps, 5 pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Saracens) – 23 caps, 0 pts
19 – Marvin Orie (DHL Stormers) – 4 caps, 0 pts
20 – Marco van Staden (Leicester Tigers) – 5 caps, 0 pts
21 – Dan du Preez (Sale Sharks) – 4 caps, 0 pts
22 – Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 14 caps, 25 pts (5t)
23 – Morné Steyn (Vodacom Bulls) – 67 caps, 742 points (8t, 102c, 156p, 10d)
Springbok record against Argentina:
Played 30; Won 26, Lost 3, Drawn 1; Points for 1058, Points against 594; Tries scored 125, Tries conceded 56; Highest score 73 pts, Biggest win 60 pts; Win %: 87%.