The Springboks have made several changes for the important opening Test of the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour against England at Twickenham in London on Saturday afternoon.
Only five players who started in the 31-31 draw against the Barbarians last week at Wembley were again included in a much changed line-up for the Test against the English. They are Beast Mtawarira (prop), Pieter-Steph du Toit (flank), Rudy Paige (scrumhalf), Pat Lambie (flyhalf) and Francois Venter (outside centre).
Venter will make his Test debut on Saturday following his good showing last week at Wembley and his centre partner is Damian de Allende, who will win his 21st cap for the Springboks.
The injury to Roelof Smit and a host of other flankers, as well as the unavailability of other experienced loose forwards, meant Springbok coach Allister Coetzee was forced into revamping his loose trio. The Bok coach decided to move Du Toit from second row to the side of the scrum, a position he is familiar with, as he will bring much-needed ball carrying ability and more lineout options.
The experienced Willem Alberts will start on the other side of the scrum, while Warren Whiteley retains the No 8 jersey he wore throughout the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
Du Toit’s positional switch means a return to the starting team for Lood de Jager, who sat out the Barbarians fixture because of a one match suspension.
In the front row, hooker Adriaan Strauss returns to action and he takes over the captaincy from Patrick Lambie who led the side at Wembley. Vincent Koch will play at tighthead prop and Lourens Adriaanse moves to the bench.
The halfback combination of Paige and Lambie are kept unchanged. Wing JP Pietersen returns to the side and will wear the No 11 jersey, the position he usually plays for his club side, the Leicester Tigers. The Springboks’ medical team advised Coetzee not to consider Bryan Habana, as they felt he is not sufficiently fit to play.
Ruan Combrinck will do duty on the right wing, and Willie le Roux at fullback, which means a return to the back three that played in the three Test series against Ireland in June.
Coetzee said the number of injuries, and to players in specific positions, gave him the opportunity to test certain new combinations.
“We are going to use this tour also to test various combinations and rotate players to ensure we move in the right direction,” said Coetzee.
“The challenge this week will definitely start up front as the English pack paved the way for their series win over the Wallabies in Australia. It will be a physical challenge and the set-piece battle could prove to be the decisive.
“I believe we have selected the best available team for this Saturday. We have a long list of injured loose forwards, with all of Roelof Smit, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Louw, Jaco Kriel, Siya Kolisi and Sikumbuzo Notshe injured, while a couple are also unavailable for selection,” explained Coetzee.
Coetzee said a daunting task awaits his side on Saturday at Twickenham: “England have a lot of belief at the moment – they have won their last nine matches since the appointment of Eddie Jones as coach.
“They are always formidable at Twickenham and matches involving our two countries have always delivered close fought encounters. They are an extremely well-coached side with no apparent weaknesses and their away series win in Australia proved why they are currently second in the world rankings.
“They are definite favourites, but we are looking forward to another huge battle against them,” said Coetzee.
Captain Strauss will lead the Springboks for the tenth consecutive Test match, while lock Eben Etzebeth will play in his 31st consecutive Test for the Springboks.
The Springbok team to face England at Twickenham:
15. Willie le Roux (Canon Eagles (Japan)), 39 caps, 45 points
14. Ruan Combrinck (Xerox Golden Lions), 4 caps, 13 points
13. Francois Venter (Toyota Free State Cheetahs), uncapped
12. Damian de Allende (DHL Western Province), 20 caps, 10 points
11. JP Pietersen (Leicester Tigers (England)), 69 caps, 120 points
10. Patrick Lambie (vice-captain) (Cell C Sharks), 53 caps, 137 points
9. Rudy Paige (Vodacom Blue Bulls), 5 caps, 0 points
8. Warren Whiteley (Docomo Red Hurricanes (Japan)), 12 caps, 15 points
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Western Province), 17 caps, 15 points
6. Willem Alberts (Stade Francais (France)), 41 caps, 35 points
5. Lood de Jager (Vodacom Blue Bulls), 25 caps, 20 points
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Western Province), 53 caps, 10 points
3. Vincent Koch (Saracens (England)), 7 caps, 0 points
2. Adriaan Strauss (captain) (Vodacom Blue Bulls), 63 caps, 30 points
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 84 caps, 10 points
16. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Western Province), 3 caps, 0 points
17. Steven Kitshoff (Bordeaux (France)), 7 caps, 0 points
18. Lourens Adriaanse (Cell C Sharks), 4 caps, 0 points
19. Franco Mostert (Ricoh Black Rams (Japan)), 4 caps, 0 points
20. Nizaam Carr (DHL Western Province), 2 caps, 0 points
21. Faf de Klerk (Xerox Golden Lions), 8 caps, 0 points
22. Johan Goosen (Racing 92 (France)), 10 caps, 20 points
23. Lionel Mapoe (Kubota Spears (Japan)), 9 caps, 0 points
Stats and facts:
news Head to head:
• England and South Africa will play in their 38th Test match since 1906. South Africa won 23, lost 12 while two matches were drawn for a win percentage of 62%.
• The last time that England won a Test match against South Africa was 10 years ago. John Smit’s Springboks lost narrowly at Twickenham on 18 November, 2006 with the score 23-21. Since that day, South Africa and England clashed in 12 Test matches in which the Springboks were unbeaten with 11 wins and one drawn.
• South Africa’s complete record against England is: P: 37; W: 23; L: 12; D: 2; PF: 780; PA: 592; TF: 72; TA: 42; Percentage won: 62%; Average score: 21-16.
Team match records against England:
• Highest score – 58-10 in Bloemfontein, 2007
• Most points conceded – 53-3 at Twickenham, 2002
• Most tries – 8 in Pretoria, 2007
• Most tries conceded – 7 at Twickenham, 2002
Individual match records against England:
• Most points – 34 by Jannie de Beer in Paris, 1999
• Most tries – 3 by Danie Gerber in Johannesburg, 1984
• Most conversions – 7 by Percy Montgomery in Bloemfontein, 2007
• Most penalty goals – 6 by Braam van Straaten in Pretoria, 2000
• Most drop goals – 5 by Jannie de Beer in Paris, 1999
Career records against England:
• Most appearances – 12 by Percy Montgomery, Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana
• Most points – 99 by Percy Montgomery
• Most tries – 6 by Bryan Habana
• Most conversions – 20 by Percy Montgomery
• Most penalty goals – 18 by Percy Montgomery
• Most drop goals – 5 by Jannie de Beer
• The match officials for this match are: Referee – Jérôme Garcès (France); Assistant referees – Glen Jackson (New Zealand) and Andrew Brace (Ireland) with the Jon Mason (Wales).
• It will be Garcès’ 10th appearance as referee in Test matches involving South Africa. The Springboks won only three of the previous nine with Garcès in charge.
• Twickenham is the second largest stadium in the UK, after Wembley, and the fourth largest in Europe. It is the home of the English rugby union team.
• The first International at the stadium, England v Wales was played on 15 January, 1910. South Africa’s first Test match at the stadium was against England on 4 January, 1913 which was won by the Springboks 9-3.
• South Africa’s record at Twickenham is P: 19; W: 11; L: 8; PF: 314; PA: 324; TF: 30; TA: 29; Win %: 58%. Average score: 17-17.
• The total Test caps in the starting line-up are 492, of which 190 caps are in the backline and 302 among the forwards. The combined Test caps of those on the bench are 47. The average caps per player for the 23 are 23.
• The youngest player in the 23 man squad is Lood de Jager (23y, 10m) while the oldest member of the team is Willem Alberts (32y, 6m).
• The tallest player in the squad is Lood de Jager (2.05m), the shortest is Faf de Klerk (1.72m), the heaviest is Steven Kitshoff (125kg) and the lightest is Faf de Klerk (80kg).
• The following players will play in their 10th consecutive Tests in the starting XV under Allister Coetzee: Eben Etzebeth, Adriaan Strauss and Tendai Mtawarira.
• Of the 23 players, JP Pietersen is the most capped against England with eight Tests, while Patrick Lambie has the most career points with 27 (three conversions, six penalties and a drop goal).
Milestones and records:
• Should South Africa be victorious in this Test, it will be the 13th consecutive Test undefeated against England. As a result of this winning streak of the Springboks, none of the current England squad members have a win against South Africa.
• England is currently undefeated after 10 consecutive wins since winning their final Rugby World Cup pool match in October 2015.
• Francois Venter will make his Springbok Test debut with Springbok #877. He will be the 84th Springbok from Free State.
• Eben Etzebeth will play in his 31st consecutive Test.
• Adriaan Strauss will captain the Springboks for the 10th time.
• Only seven players have played against England before: They are Willem Alberts (4), Eben Etzebeth (5), Pat Lambie (5), Willie le Roux (1), Tendai Mtawarira (6), JP Pietersen (8) and Adriaan Strauss (6).