There is still an element of experimentation and spreading of depth but Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has returned largely to the team that started most of the tests against the British and Irish Lions for Saturday’s return Castle Lager Rugby Championship clash with Argentina.
In all their are 11 changes to the side that played last week, six of those changes coming at the back. The entire backline that played the deciding final test against the Lions will be back for the game at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
That means there are six changes at the back, with just scrumhalf Cobus Reinach continuing the same role that he played in the opening Championship test last weekend, which the Boks won 32-12.
With Faf de Klerk still injured, there is another opportunity for young Jaden Hendrikse to add to the experience he gained by playing off the bench last week as he continues that role this week.
Damian Willemse, the starting fullback last week, hands the No15 jersey back to Willie le Roux but will resume his role as the outside back back-up on a bench that retains the six/two split between backs and forwards.
It is at forward where Nienaber is continuing with the process of experimenting and giving game time opportunity to fringe players, with Marvin Orie slotting in as the starting lock partner to Lood de Jager after playing off the bench last weekend.
He replaces Eben Etzebeth, who gets a well deserved rest after his yeoman work of the Lions series and in last week’s systematic destruction of the Pumas.
No8 Jasper Wiese is a “big gun” now so the back row of skipper Siya Kolisi, Franco Mostert and Wiese is pretty much the first choice unit until Duane Vermeulen is fully fit again and Pieter-Steph du Toit is back in the mix. Unfortunately in Du Toit’s case that looks likely to be only next year.
Mostert was good as a replacement blindside flank when Du Toit was injured in the second test against the Lions and was also excellent when he started in the No7 in the deciding test and this will be another opportunity for him to grow into the role.
The lock back-up this week is an interesting one, with Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg getting his potential first cap if he comes onto the field.
Thomas du Toit packs down at tighthead in his first start for the Boks in nearly two years, and there is also a rare starting opportunity for hooker Malcolm Marx, who has become a specialist impact sub in recent times.
Bongi Mbonambi, who usually wears the No2, plays off the bench in this game, as do Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, who are are both stalwarts of the World Cup winning group.
Kwagga Smith started at No7 last week and this week he will be playing off the bench, with Dan du Preez also getting another opportunity to play off the bench after his brief stint on the field as a replacement in the first game against the Pumas.
In all there are 11 members of the starting team for the final test starting again this week, with Mbonambi, Kitshoff and Malherbe fulfilling bench roles this time.
Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard (vice-captain), Cobus Reinach, Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Lood de Jager, Marvin Orie, Thomas du Toit, Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Kwagga Smith, Dan du Preez, Jaden Hendrikse, Damian Willemse.
Springbok record against Argentina:
Played 31; Won 27, Lost 3, Drawn 1; Points for 1090, Points against 606; Tries scored 128, Tries conceded 56; Highest score 73 pts, Biggest win 60 pts; Win %: 87%.
- Cheslin Kolbe needs one more try to earn his 10th career try and 50 points in Test matches.
- Lood de Jager will play in his 50th Test match for South Africa.
- Marvin Orie will start in his first Test for the Springboks.
- Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg is the only uncapped player in the match-day squad.
- The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is
- There are 236 caps in the backline with 253 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 161
- The average caps per player in the backline are 33 the forwards 31 while the players on the bench average 20.