Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber has named a loaded side to open this season’s Rugby Championship against the All Blacks.
Led once again by their indomitable captain Siya Kolisi, the Boks will be hoping to celebrate hooker Malcom Marx 50th test in style.
Like the All Blacks, this Bok side come into the fixture with serious question marks hanging over their style of play just over a year out from the World Cup.
The forward pack is about as strong as Nienaber could’ve picked with both the starting eight and the six on the bench looking to physically dominate the All-Blacks.
Leading the physical charge will Eben Etzabeth who was one of the few Boks to find some great form in their series win over Wales.
As he gets set to win his 101st cap for the Springboks, Etzabeth’s battle with likely All Black starter Brodie Retallick will continue what is now a decade long feud.
Elsewhere former World Player of The Year Pieter-Steph Du Toit will be looking to find some form as he works his way back from a series of career threatening injuries.
The backline is not too dissimilar from the one that started the World Cup final in 2019.
The two changes being Damien Willemse once again getting the nod at fullback ahead of Willie Le roux. Whilst Kurt-Lee Arendse replaces Cheslin Kolbe who is recovering from a broken jaw.
The back three combination of Willemse, Arendse and Makazole Mapimpi will be hoping they get more attacking opportunities than they did in the Welsh series.
What are your thoughts on the Bok squad chosen for Saturday’s first Test against the All Blacks? pic.twitter.com/E5487vzhgg
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Speaking at the team announcement, Nienaber was full of praise for Marx.
We are very proud of Malcolm’s achievement, and we wish him all the best for the game. He is a true warrior, and he epitomises what we stand for as the Springboks.
“But as we said with the recent milestones of Eben (Etzebeth) and Bongi (Mbonambi), we are preparing for a challenging Test which will be vital in setting the tone for our Rugby Championship campaign this year and that is our focus.
“The occasion will be so much more special for Malcolm if we win the Test, and the entire team need to do their best so that he can look back at this occasion with good memories.”
The Bok coach also highlighted just how dangerous the under fire All-Blacks could be if given half a chance.
“The Springboks and All Blacks have a unique rivalry, and we always bring the best out of one another,” said Nienaber.
“They will play a different style of rugby to Wales, and we have been preparing for that, and like many of the northern hemisphere teams, their set pieces are strong, and they have fantastic skills in their backline, so we’ll have to be at our best to register a win.
“That said, we had our review of the Wales Tests and we know where we need to improve, and last week’s training camp in Hazyview allowed us to focus on those areas of our game.
“This week our focus is more on New Zealand and the areas of the game that we feel will be vital to give us the best possible chance to start the series on a positive note, and we’ve been working hard on that, and we will continue doing so in the build-up to the match.
“New Zealand have always tested us to the limit, and it will be no different in the next two weeks.”Springbok