The Springboks have named their team that will face Argentina in their opening Rugby World Cup warm-up game, with Bongi Mbonambi skippering the side.
There are 13 changes in all made to the starting line-up that held off the same opposition 22-21 at Ellis Park in the final round of the Rugby Championship.
Meanwhile, prop Gerhard Steenekamp could make his Springbok debut if he comes off the bench in the game at Velez Sarsfield Stadium in Buenos Aires.
65th Springbok captain
Mbonambi will become the 64th Springbok captain and only the second black player to skipper South Africa, with Siya Kolisi, of course, the first to do so.
Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber has retained only two players from last weekend’s match, as fly-half Manie Libbok and lock Marvin Orie remain in situ.
Nienaber also named a rejigged bench, with utility forward Jean-Luc du Preez and scrum-half Herschel Jantjies donning the jersey for the first time this season as the coaches attempt to give as many players as possible a chance to prove themselves before naming their 33-man Rugby World Cup squad on Tuesday, August 8.
Mbonambi will form a strong front-row with props Trevor Nyakane and Thomas du Toit, while Jean Kleyn earns his second start in a lock combination with Orie.
Nienaber also named a physical loose trio with flankers Deon Fourie and Franco Mostert, and number eight Jasper Wiese, while experienced scrum-half Cobus Reinach will join forces with Libbok at half-back.
The backline also features grunt and class as Makazole Mapimpi, Canan Moodie (both wings), and Damian Willemse (full-back) form an exciting back three, while Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am – who has been named vice-captain for the match – will pair up in the midfield.
Wing Kurt-Lee Arendse has been declared fit to play after suffering a finger injury on Saturday and will provide backline cover with Jesse Kriel and Jantjies on a bench featuring a five-three split in favour of the forwards.
“This selection includes plenty of Rugby World Cup and Castle Lager Lions Series winners as well as a former Irish international in Jean Kleyn, and this just shows the quality of the depth we have,” said Nienaber.
“We’ve been emphasising the importance of giving as many players as possible a fair chance to show what they can do with an eye on finalising our Rugby World Cup squad, so we are pleased to give Herschel and Jean-Luc an opportunity to play.
Physical battle ahead
“This is going to be a massive physical battle, and there will be a lot of pressure on the players mentally and physically, which is exactly the type of situation we would like to see them in as we enter our World Cup warm-up games.”
Nienaber admitted that while this may be a vastly different team to last week, most of the players had extended experience of the Springbok environment and knew the importance of taking the opportunity to impress.
“There’s a fair bit of experience within this squad, and apart from Gerhard, most of the players have been in the selection mix in the last two seasons,” said Nienaber.
“There is not a player in our enlarged squad who is fully confident that he will be in the World Cup squad, so the competition for places is intense. Each one of the players is desperate for an opportunity to play, and it’s evident in the way they’ve been training and in the hard work they’ve been doing off the field, so we’re excited to see what they bring this weekend.”
Nienaber was pleased with the speed at which the players acclimatised to the time zone in Argentina and said they were preparing for another hard grind at Velez Sarsfield.
“Argentina have shown in the last two seasons that they are a force to be reckoned with, and they are particularly tough to beat at home,” said Nienaber.
“They pride themselves on their physicality and set pieces, and they have an unbelievable fighting spirit, so we are anticipating another feisty battle against them.”
Springboks side to face Los Pumas
South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Bongi Mbonambi (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Evan Roos, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Jesse Kriel, 23 Kurt-Lee Arendse
Date: Saturday, August 5
Venue: Velez Sarsfield Stadium, Buenos Aires
Kick-off: 19:10 local (23:10 BST, 22:10 GMT)
Referee: Nika Amashukeli (GRU)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace (IRFU), Chris Busby (IRFU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)