Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has recalled the experienced trio of Lood de Jager, Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn for Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test against New Zealand in Townsville, as they look to rebound from successive defeats against Australia.
Nienaber has made five changes to the match-day squad for the Test against the All Blacks, with Trevor Nyakane named at loosehead prop for his 50th Test cap. Two of the changes are in the starting lineup, and more three on the bench, which feature a five-three split this week.
De Jager (lock) has completed his return-to-play protocol after suffering a concussion against the Wallabies two weekends ago, and reunites with Eben Etzebeth in the second row, which sees Marvin Orie drop out of the squad.
The other change in the starting lineup is at blindside flank where Kwagga Smith is promoted from the bench in a direct switch with Franco Mostert, who will serve as impact player this week in a rotational switch to manage his workload.
Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn are the new players amongst the replacements, with Steyn set to provide cover at centre and fullback, and Jantjies at flyhalf, while Herschel Jantjies will cover scrumhalf.
With Jasper Wiese’s fate yet to be decided following a delay in his disciplinary hearing for foul play at a ruck, which was held earlier on Tuesday, Marco van Staden and Mostert – who covers lock and loose forward – are set to spark some energy later in the game, much like the replacement front row of Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Kock (both props) and Malcolm Marx (hooker).
Cheslin Kolbe (wing) is still recovering from the knock he took to the leg before the first Test against Australia, but Nienaber said the speedster was making good progress and could be available for selection next weekend.
“It’s always a massive task to face the All Blacks,” said Nienaber.
“They have skillful players who thrive on turnover ball and who know how to capitalise on point-scoring opportunities, so we know that we need to a deliver a quality 80-minute performance against them to turn the corner after two disappointing defeats.
“Experience will be vital to ensure that we remain focused and calm throughout the match, and players such as Elton and Frans will bring that when they take the field. They have both played and won against the All Blacks, but they will also bring a set of different skills.
“Lood also boasts 51 Test caps, which will be valuable in this match, while has Kwagga has faced them before as well, which gives us a chance to give Franco a well-deserved opportunity to be managed carefully this week after a physically taxing load since the season started.
“Both Elton and Frans have been training very well, they’ve also been in our structures for years and have performed well for the team in high-pressure matches, so we are keen to see what dynamic they will bring to the game.”
Nienaber expected an epic encounter against the All Blacks, who have won all four of their Castle Lager Rugby Championship matches up to now with bonus points.
“We are fully aware of the challenge that awaits us, and we know what we have to do to stay on the right side of the scoreboard this weekend – strong defence, accurate execution and capitalising on our point-scoring chances will be key,” said Nienaber.
“We also have to ensure we make minimal mistakes because the All Blacks have proved time and again how they punish teams from small errors, so we need to deliver an effective performance all around.”
Luke Pearce (England) is the referee for this Test, with Jaco Peyer (South Africa) and Angus Gardner (Australia) serving as assistant referees, and Damon Murphy (Australia) is on TMO duty.
Springbok team to face New Zealand in Townsville:
15 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 68 caps, 60 pts (12t)
14 – Sbu Nkosi (Cell C Sharks) – 14 caps, 40 pts (8t)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 21 caps, 25 pts (5t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Munster) – 53 caps, 30 pts (6t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 20 caps, 80 pts (16t)
10 – Handré Pollard (vice-captain, Montpellier) – 55 caps, 544 pts (6t, 83c, 112p, 4d)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks) – 34 caps, 25 pts (5t)
8 – Duane Vermeulen (Vodacom Bulls) – 56 caps, 15 pts (3t)
7 – Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo) – 14 caps, 5 pts (1t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 58 caps, 30 pts (6t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks) – 51 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Toulon) – 92 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 45 caps, 5 pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers) – 43 caps, 45 pts (9t)
1 – Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls) – 49 caps, 5pts (1t)
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 41 caps, 45 pts (9t)
17 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 54 caps, 5pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Saracens) – 26 caps, 0 pts
19 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 46 caps, 5pts (1t)
20 – Marco van Staden (Leicester Tigers) – 8 caps, 0 pts
21 – Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 16 caps, 25 pts (5t)
22 – Elton Jantjies (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes) – 40 caps, 300 pts (2t, 64c, 54p)
23 – Frans Steyn (Toyota Cheetahs) – 69 caps, 141pts (11t, 7c, 21p, 3d)
Springbok record against New Zealand:
Played 99; Won 36, Lost 59, Drawn 4; Points for 1577, Points against 2050; Tries scored 153, Tries conceded 225; Highest score 46 pts, Biggest win 17 pts; Win %: 36%.
Photo: @Springboks on Twitter