The Springboks will face their first test of the international season in the form of World XV side, led by none other than former Springbok Bakkies Botha.
The veteran lock leads an experienced side containing former Springboks JJ Engelbrecht (Blue Bulls) and Gurthro Steenkamp (Toulouse) with Flip van der Merwe (Blue Bulls) among the replacements.
The World XV have a battle-hardened pack with Botha (85 caps), lining up with New Zealand’s Ali Williams (77) in the second row, while props Steenkamp (53) and Carl Hayman (45) also bring significant experience.
There are eight of Toulon’s treble-winning European champions in the starting side, including two brothers in full back Delon Armitage and flanker Steffon Armitage, the 2014 European Player of the Year.
This is an important game for South Africa. They’ve got a Rugby Championship game next weekend so they’ll be looking for a good hit-out and the World XV should provide just that for Heyneke Meyer’s team.
As for the Springboks, the big news to come out this week is that Jean de Villiers will make an inspirational come-back to top-level rugby from the bench, almost eight months after suffering a horrific knee injury sustained during a match against Wales last year.
De Villiers has gone through more than seven months of rigorous rehabilitation and is now completing a remarkable recovery. Seeing him on the field will give the home side and the crowd a massive surge of motivation.
Victor Matfield will captain the Boks, with Warren Whiteley making his first start in the Green and Gold, while two uncapped players, Jesse Kriel and Vincent Koch, have been included in the match-23.
Whiteley, Kriel and Koch were all in stellar form during the Super Rugby season and they deserve the opportunity to test their mettle on the international stage.
It’s a Springbok team full of youth and exuberance, which can be a worry in the Test arena, where experience and calm is needed; however, in a match against the World XV, the game sentiment is slightly different and will allow for the Springboks to play a bit more of an ambitious style of rugby.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jean de Villiers.
World XV – 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Lachlan Turner, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 David Smith, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Bakkies Botha (c), 4 Ali Williams, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 David Roumieu, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Rudi Wulf.