Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber made three changes to his starting team that ran out for their final Test against Wales for their opening Castle Lager Rugby Championship fixture against New Zealand in Nelspruit on Saturday, where Malcolm Marx will earn his 50th Test cap.
Marx will run out at hooker in place of Bongi Mbonambi, while Faf de Klerk comes in at scrumhalf in a rotational switch with Jaden Hendrikse. The only injury-enforced change is on the right wing, where Kurt-Lee Arendse will earn his second Test cap in place of Cheslin Kolbe, who is recovering from a broken jaw.
Both Mbonambi and Hendrikse will play off the replacements bench, where the only other change is the inclusion of Salmaan Moerat (lock) in the place of Elrigh Louw (loose forward).
“One of the changes to the starting team were injury-enforced with Kurt-Lee coming in for Cheslin, and with Malcolm, we feel it is a big occasion to play one’s 50th Test so it will be good for him to start, while we believe Faf’s experience and style of play will complement our game against the All Blacks,” said Nienaber.
“These changes resulted in direct swaps to the bench for Bongi and Jaden, and with Salmaan covering lock we can either use Franco (Mostert) at lock or flanker, and we have Kwagga (Smith) who can also provide cover in the loose trio and even on the wing if needs be.”
Nienaber added: “We played two Tests with a similar team in the Castle Lager Incoming Series, and we feel this is the right squad for this specific challenge against New Zealand.
“The All Blacks are strong all around and they will come to Nelspruit desperate to avenge their series defeat against Ireland and to prove that they remain one of the powerhouses in world rugby, so we believe experience and physicality will be vital in this Test.”
Nienaber spoke highly of Marx as he faces the important career milestone of 50 Test caps: “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 epitomizes 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 Castle Lager 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 needs to do their best so that he can look back at this occasion with good memories.”
Nienaber anticipates the All Blacks to come out guns blazing in their opening two matches at the Mbombela Stadium (Saturday, 6 August) and at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg (13 August) and said they are expecting an equally big onslaught to that which they faced against them in the past.
“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 has always tested us to the limit, and it will be no different in the next two weeks.”
Springbok team to face New Zealand in Nelspruit:
15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 18 caps, 12 pts (1t, 2c, 1p)
14 – Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls) – 1 cap 0 pts
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 28 caps, 25 pts (5t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 60 caps, 35 pts (7t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 27 caps, 100 pts (20t)
10 – Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers) – 62 caps, 633 pts (7t, 86c, 138p, 4d)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles) – 38 caps, 25pts (5t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 13 caps, 0 pts
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 60 caps, 25 pts (5t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 65 caps, 35 pts (7t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Wild Knights) – 58 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 100 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 48 caps, 5pts (1t)
2 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 49 caps, 55 pts (11t)
1 – Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92) – 56 caps, 5pts (1t)
16 –Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 50 caps, 55 pts (11t)
17 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 61 caps, 5pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Wasps) 34 caps, 0 pts
19 – Salmaan Moerat (DHL Stormers) – 1 cap, O pts
20 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 53 caps, 5pts (1t)
21 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 21 caps, 5 pts (1t)
22 – Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks) – 4 caps, 5 pts (1t)
23 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 74 caps, 60 pts (12t)
Springbok record against New Zealand:
Played 101; Won 37; Lost 60; Drawn 4; Points for 1625; Points against 2098, Tries scored 156; Tries conceded 229; Highest score 46-40 in Johannesburg (2000); Biggest win 17-0 in Durban, 1928. Win % 36%.
- Only three Tests have previously been played at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit – 2013 against Scotland, 2014 against Wales, and 2016 against Argentina.
- To date, the All Blacks have played in 50 Test matches on South African soil.
- Handre Pollard is the second highest point scorer against New Zealand with 120 points in 12 Test matches – only 19 points fewer than Morné Steyn, with 139 points in 13 Test matches.
- Beauden Barrett is third on the All Blacks vs South Africa points-scoring list with 102 points in 15 Test matches.
- The following could be a unique record if achieved: the three Barrett brothers need to score 38 points to reach 1000 points in Test matches. Their contributions are currently: Beauden Barrett (708 points), Jordie Barrett (229 points), and Scott Barrett (25 points).
- The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 683.
- There are 234 caps in the backline with 449 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench, there are a further 298 caps.
- The average caps per player in the backline are 33, the forwards 55, and the players on the bench average 37.