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Springboks Announce Team to Play Wales

The Boks announce their team to take on Wales in London.

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Rugby World Cup-winning prop Vincent Koch will earn his 50th Test cap on Saturday when the Springboks take on Wales at Twickenham in their first international since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in France in October last year as Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus named an exciting matchday 23 that will be captained by flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit and features four uncapped players.

Edwill van der Merwe (wing) and Jordan Hendrikse (flyhalf) are the two uncapped players named in run-on team – which features a good balance of youth and experience – while Ben-Jason Dixon (lock) and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (utility back) are the two new faces on the replacements bench.

A total of 10 players in the matchday squad featured in the 2023 Rugby World Cup final, while 16 players were members of the Rugby World Cup squad.

Erasmus welcomed back experienced hooker Malcolm Marx, who last ran out for the team in their opening World Cup encounter against Scotland before suffering a knee injury at training which ruled him out of further tournament action.

Thirty players will travel to London on Wednesday night, with those outside of the matchday squad being Manie Libbok (flyhalf), RG Snyman (lock) – both RWC winners – Neethling Fouche (prop), Phepsi Buthelezi (loose forward), Ethan Hooker (centre), Quan Horn (fullback), and Andre-Hugo Venter (hooker). 

With Snyman plying his trade in Ireland, he will make the short flight to London to join the squad following Munster’s exit from the Vodacom United Rugby Championship in the semi-final last weekend against the Glasgow Warriors.

Five players in the starting team featured in the same positions in the international extravaganza at Stade de France in October last year, where the Springboks pipped the All Blacks 12-11 to be crowned world champions for the second time in a row. They are the duo of Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert, Du Toit, Faf de Klerk and Jesse Kriel – who has been named as the vice-captain for this match. 

Erasmus opted for a five-three split in favour of the forwards on the replacements bench, which includes four Rugby World Cup winners – Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Grant Williams, and Damian de Allende respectively.

“This is an exciting playing squad and travelling group, and we are looking forward to seeing how the uncapped players step up at top international level and how we execute what we’ve been working on at training in the last few days and at the alignment camps,” said Erasmus. “The likes of Edwill, Jordan, Ben-Jason, and Sacha have really impressed us at training, and we believe they have what it takes to make their presence felt against a quality team such as Wales.

“They will be surrounded by several experienced campaigners – some of whom are Rugby World Cup winners – so they will have enough guidance on the field to fulfil their roles even when the pressure is on. It is equally exciting for us to see players such as Aphelele (Fassi), Evan (Roos), Ntuthuko (Mchunu), and Salmaan (Moerat) back in the green in gold after earning their stripes in the last few seasons.”

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Erasmus was confident that the remaining members of the travelling squad would benefit immensely from being exposed to the Test environment and to experience first-hand what is required of them during a Test week, and he had no doubt it would also bode well for the team as the Boks prepare for the 2024 season with a long-term view on the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

Commenting on the decision to hand Du Toit the captaincy, Erasmus said it was not only well deserved, but also personal for the player since the first and only time he led the team was against Wales in Washington in 2018 – a Test the Boks lost 22-20.

“Pieter-Steph has been a key figure in our system for several years now and he’s a player who leads by example on the field,” said Erasmus. “We have a strong core of senior players in this group, and we had a few options for captain, but we feel Pieter-Steph will be the right man to lead the team this week.

“He has captained the Springboks only once before and that was against Wales in 2018, and after that result, we believe it will make this match even more personal for him. Over and above that, he has immense respect from his team-mates and the coaches, and we know he will accept this responsibility with great pride.”

Jordan Hendrikse will start at flyhalf for the Springboks.

Erasmus was delighted to see Koch earn his 50th Test cap and lauded the player for being a stalwart for the Boks.

“It’s a special achievement to play 50 Tests,” said Erasmus. “It requires one to play well consistently and to continue to deliver, and Vincent has certainly done that for us over the years. He’s a hard worker, and he’s had a great season for the Sharks, so we all share in the excitement for him ahead of this big occasion.

“Being such a good team man, I’m sure this will motivate the team even more to start the season on a high note, which will be vital to build momentum before the Castle Lager Incoming Series kicks off against Ireland in July.”

Erasmus was pleased with the quality of the squad selected, especially with several regular first-choice players recovering from injuries and niggles including Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am – who has been allowed to continue his rehabilitation from rib and shoulder injuries with the squad – as well as Damian Willemse among others, to add to a list of players who are ineligible for selection due to the Vodacom Bulls advancing to the grand final of the Vodacom URC and the Test falling outside of the international window.

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“We knew what challenges we would face in selecting the squad for this training camp and the Wales Test, but as a team we turned it into a fantastic opportunity to blood a few youngsters and expose them to the national set-up, which will be vital in the next few years as we build a squad capable of trying to win the Rugby World Cup in 2027,” said Erasmus. “We are already reaping the rewards of exposing a few players to Test rugby in the last few years, with some of them being selected for the World Cup, while a few of the players taking the field on Saturday already know what it takes to succeed at international level.

“Building squad depth is one of our key pillars as a team, and this camp and Test match, as well as the one coming up against Portugal in Bloemfontein in the Castle Lager Incoming Series, will allow us to tick that box with an eye on the next few years.” 

Edwill van der Merwe will make his debut at wing.

Springbok team to face Wales at Twickenham:

South Africa: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit (captain), 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Ben-Jason Dixon, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, 23 Damian de Allende.

Stats and facts:

Springbok record against Wales

Played 41; Won 33; Lost 7; Drawn 1; Points for: 1 071; Points against; 658; Tries scored: 126; Tries conceded: 54; Highest score: 96-13; Biggest win: 83 points; Win %: 80%.

Miscellaneous:

  • Pieter-Steph du Toit will lead the Springboks for the second time in his illustrious career – the first time was against Wales in Washington in 2018 when he became the 60th Springbok captain.
  • Four of the last six matches between the Springboks and Wales were decided by five points or less.
  • The Springboks have won five of their last 10 Test matches against Wales – the last of which was a Rugby World Cup warm-up game in Cardiff in August last year, which the Boks won 52-16. The Springboks’ eight tries in that match saw them rack up a record number of points against Wales on Welsh soil.
  • The match marks a significant career milestone for Vincent Koch as he earns his 50th Test cap.
  • The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 637.
  • There are 183 caps in the backline, with 454 caps among the forwards. On the bench there are a further 227
  • The average caps per player in the backline is 26, the forwards 56, while the players on the bench average 28.
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