The Springboks, coming off the back of a 31-31 draw with the Barbarians, will kick off their outgoing tour with an important Test against England in Twickenham, while the hosts themselves will be looking to defeat South Africa following ten consecutive losses to the men in green.
South African coach Allister Coetzee has rung in the changes, with only five players who started in the 31-31 draw against the Barbarians last week at Wembley included in a much changed line-up for Saturday’s Test. 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 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.
Bryan Habana has showed significant improvement this week, however he is not yet 100% ready and it was decided not to risk him with two more Tests to come on the tour.
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.
On the other side of the field, England head coach Eddie Jones has named an experienced starting XV with England captain Dylan Hartley leading out a side with a total of 596 international caps between them as they aim to defeat the Springboks for the first time since 2006.
Wasps centre Elliot Daly, one of the notable selections this week, will make his sixth international appearance, in place of Jonathan Joseph, having come off the bench to earn his previous caps.
In the absence of James Haskell, Tom Wood (Northampton Saints) returns to the England team at flanker with Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby) also back on the left-wing following a lengthy injury lay-off.
Debutants Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins) and Nathan Hughes (Wasps) are named as replacements as is uncapped centre Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors).
Elsewhere second-row Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) will earn his 50th England cap on Saturday having made his debut against Australia at Twickenham in 2009. He partners Joe Launchbury in the absence of injured Saracens duo George Kruis and Maro Itoje.
There are also returns for Joe Marler (Harlequins) and Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby) who are both among the replacements.
“We’ve picked a matchday 23 with a blend of experience and youth,” said Jones.
“We’ve trained well this week and I am pleased with how the players have come together and responded to some of the things we’ve asked them to do. The boys are focussed and ready to go.
“We’re looking forward to the game. It’s a fantastic opportunity to show how much depth we have in English rugby. With a few influential players not available for selection this is a great opportunity for some of the new faces to put both feet forward and we’re backing them to do the job for us.
“Test matches are always about the contest up front and South Africa pride themselves in the set piece but we’ll be ready for the challenge.”
England also face Fiji, Argentina and Australia in the series and Jones added: “We can’t wait to get back to Twickenham.
“It’s a very special stadium and we hope the crowd really gets behind us on Saturday. We want to make Twickenham an intimidating place for opposition teams to play rugby and the fans can contribute to that.”
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Jamie George, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Winckler, 19 Dave Atwood, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jonathan Joseph.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Willem Alberts, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Lionel Mapoe.
Prediction: Springboks 5
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