The experienced Tendai Mtawarira (loosehead prop), Bongi Mbonambi (hooker) and Trevor Nyakane (tighthead prop) will pack down in the Springbok front row when South Africa face Argentina in the third and final Castle Lager Rugby Championship encounter in Salta on Saturday.
The reshuffled front row are the only changes to the starting fifteen from the one that held holders New Zealand to a thrilling 16-16 draw in Wellington on 27 July. Duane Vermeulen will again lead the Springboks as captain for this decisive clash in the high altitude of Salta.
Mtawarira, the most experienced Springbok prop in history, and Nyakane replace Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, while Mbonambi takes over the hooker duties from Malcolm Marx.
All three front rankers who started the Test at the Westpac Stadium in the New Zealand capital are due to make an impact off the bench against the Pumas on Saturday.
The “Beast”, who is set to make his 110thappearance in the Green and Gold jersey, will join Rugby World Cup winner Bryan Habana on 53 appearances in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship to equal the Springbok record for number of caps in the southern hemisphere competition.
South Africa can clinch the Castle Lager Rugby Championship for the first time since 2009 if they can manage to beat the difficult Pumas with a bonus point.
National director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, described Saturday’s vital clash as another very important opportunity to build momentum towards the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“The Pumas are a very difficult team to play at home and they will be fired up for this one in front of their passionate crowd in Salta,” said Erasmus.
Regarding the tweaked front row, Erasmus said: “This Test is a good opportunity for Bongi and Trevor to start next to ‘Beast’, who has a wealth of experience from playing more than 100 Tests for the Springboks.
“We all know about the massively difficult forward threat of Argentina, however, they are a clever side with skill and pace out wide so we will have to be alert on defence right until the final whistle,” said Erasmus.
The two teams are due to meet each other again next week again in Pretoria in what will be the Springboks’ final home Test before the announcement of the official Rugby World Cup squad on Monday, 26 August.
South Africa and Argentina have played three times before in Salta. The first Test, in 2014, was won 33-31 by the Springboks, while the Pumas won the second encounter at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena in 2016, also by two points (26-24).
The last encounter between the two countries in Salta was in 2017, when Eben Etzebeth’s team, playing in a special edition red jersey, triumphed by a winning margin of 18 points (41-23), which was also the Boks’ biggest Castle Lager Rugby Championship victory in Argentina.
Overall, The Springboks have played 14 Test matches in Argentina against the Pumas, with 11 victories, two defeats and one draw, for a win percentage of 79%.
The Springbok team for Salta (in order of name, franchise or club, caps and points):
15. Willie le Roux (Wasps, England), 54 caps, 60 points (12 tries)
14. Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse, France), 8, 10 (2t)
13. Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), 7, 5 (1t)
12. Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers), 38, 20 (4t)
11. Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks), 6, 20 (4t)
10. Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls), 40, 350 (4t, 60c, 67p, 3d)
9. Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England), 22, 15 (3t)
8. Duane Vermeulen (captain, Vodacom Bulls), 47, 15 (3t)
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), 48, 20 (4t)
6. Kwagga Smith (Emirates Lions), 2, 0
5. Franco Mostert (Gloucester Rugby, England), 30, 5 (1t)
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), 77, 15 (3t)
3. Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls), 39, 5 (1t)
2. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 28, 15 (3t)
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 109, 10 (2t)
16. Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), 25, 20 (4t)
17. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), 38, 5 (1t)
18. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), 30, 0
19. RG Snyman (Vodacom Bulls), 13, 0
20. Francois Louw (Bath Rugby, England), 67, 45 (9t)
21. Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers), 2, 15 (3t)
22. Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France), 58, 132 (10t, 5c, 21p, 3d)
23. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls), 42, 60 (12t)
Facts and Stats:
· The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 555. There are 175 caps in the backline with 380 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 275 caps.
· The average caps per player in the backline are 25, the forwards 48 while the players on the bench average 34.
· The average age of the starting fifteen is 28.
· Eben Etzebeth is the third most capped Springbok lock with his 77 Tests. Victor Matfield (127) and Bakkies Botha (85) are the most capped Springbok locks.
· Tendai Mtawarira is the most capped Springbok prop with his 109 Test matches.
Milestones and Records:
· The Springboks need 12 points to reach 1 000 points against Argentina. It will only be the third time that South Africa scored 1 000 points against another country – the other two countries being New Zealand and Australia.
· Handré Pollard needs 17 points to reach 150 career points in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and two points to reach 50 career points against Argentina.
· Tendai Mtawarira will join Bryan Habana on 53 appearances and the most capped Springboks in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
Springbok record against the Pumas in Argentina:
· Played 14, Won 11, Lost 2, Drawn 1, Points for 462, Points against 305, Tries for 54, Tries against 29, Win % 79.
Team records against Argentina in Argentina:
· Most points: 52 – 13 November 1993 in Buenos Aires.
· Most tries: 7 – 13 November 1993 and 9 November 1996, both in Buenos Aires.
· Most conversions: 4 – On five occasions.
· Most penalty goals: 5 – 24 August 2013 in Mendoza.
· Most drop goals: 1 – 5 November 2005 and 15 August 2015, both in Buenos Aires.
Individual records against Argentina in Argentina:
· Most points: 24 by Gaffie du Toit on 4 December 2004 in Buenos Aires.
· Most tries: 2 by seven players, with the late James Small on two occasions.
· Most conversions: 4 by four players.
· Most penalty goals: 5 by Morné Steyn on 24 August 2013 in Mendoza.
· Most drop goals: 1 each by Bolla Conradie (5 November 2005) and Pat Lambie (15 August 2015) both in Buenos Aires.
All Test matches against Argentina:
· Played 28, Won 24, Lost 3, Drawn 1, Points for 988, Points against 563, Tries for 118, Tries against 53, Win % 86.