Veteran Frans Steyn will start at fly-half for the Springboks in their crucial final round clash against Argentina in Durban on Saturday.
Steyn’s versatility has been key for the national side for several years. It offers coach Jacques Nienaber a solution to his fly-half crisis after stand-in pivot Damian Willemse was ruled out of the clash with a concussion.
New half-back pairing
The 35-year-old forms a new half-back pairing with scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse who looked in good touch in Buenos Aires. Meanwhile, Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel continue their partnership in the midfield after a solid showing last time out.
The back-three remains the same as Canan Moodie and Makazole Mapimpi start on the wings with veteran Wille le Roux at fullback.
The only other change to the starting lineup sees the return of tireless Pieter Steph du Toit for Franco Mostert, who drops to the bench. Siya Kolisi captains the side again from the side of the scrum, with Jasper Wiese starting at number eight, where he has proved his worth throughout the Rugby Championship.
Towering second-row, Eben Etzebeth continues his partnership with Lood de Jager in the middle of the scrum. At the same time, the unchanged front-row of Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and red-hot Malcolm Marx round up the starting lineup.
Nienaber has opted for a 6-2 split on the bench that sees the return of Bongi Mbonambi to the matchday 23 with Ox Nche and Vincent Koch as the other front-row replacements.
Duane Vermeulen and Kwagga Smith join Mostert as forward options on the bench for Nienaber, as the Springboks hope to reintroduce the impact of the ‘bomb squad’ to Test rugby.
Electric wing Kurt-Lee Arendse returns from suspension and is named on the bench alongside Faf de Klerk as backline replacements.
The character shown by his team in the final stages of the Buenos Aires clash encouraged Nienaber to show continuity in his selection.
“We showed in the first half last week what we are capable of and our fighting spirit in the dying minutes was admirable,” said Nienaber.
“That made it easy for us to opt for continuity in selection in the starting lineup. Obviously the one change was injury enforced as Damian Willemse has been ruled out due to concussion, and we were pleased the calmness Frans Steyn brought at fly-half when Damian left the field.
“The energy and enthusiasm Pieter-Steph has been showing at training has also been great, and we know what he is capable of in this loose trio, so I am sure he will make an impact among the loose forwards.”
6-2 split suited for Durban clash
The coach said the 6-2 split suited the clash in Durban and believes it his side’s best chance at pushing for a title in the final round.
“We know what challenges Argentina will pose and we feel that this would be the best option for us for this match specifically.
“We have a group of hungry and talented players serving in the bomb squad this week and every player in the match day squad knows what is expected of them if we want to win the Rugby Championship.”
Nienaber sees the Test as a final and knows it will be a difficult clash given Argentina’s development in 2022.
“We viewed last week as a semi-final and this week as a final, but Argentina are a team that do not give an inch, and they never stop fighting as we saw last week,” said Nienaber.
“They defeated New Zealand away from home against the odds and they registered a convincing victory against Australia at home, so we know we are in for a massive battle.
“There will be a few keys to victory this week, and these include set piece dominance, using our opportunities and ensuring that we do the right things in specific areas of the field.
“It is all or nothing for us this week, and we have a team with several players who have won the Rugby World Cup and the British & Irish Lions Series, so they know it will take nothing less than a quality 80-minute effort to win this match and the competition.”
The Springbok coach expects physicality and grit from Los Pumas this weekend and believes an 80-minute performance is key.
“They are one of the teams whose patriotism radiates in their performances. They are strong in the set pieces and have talented backs and they will challenge us in every department.
“They also never give up, as they showed in the second half last week to bounce back from 22-6 down to 22-20, and they will draw a lot of confidence from that going into this match.
“This is a massive game for both teams, so we need to be switched on mentally and physically from start to end of the match.”
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux 14 Canan Moodie 13 Jesse Kriel 12 Damian de Allende 11 Makazole Mapimpi 10 Frans Steyn 9 Jaden Hendrikse 8 Jasper Wiese 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Siya Kolisi (c) 5 Lood de Jager 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Malcolm Marx 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Duane Vermeulen, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Faf de Klerk, 23 Kurt-Lee Arendse
Date: Saturday, September 24
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17:05 local (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland) & Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO:Chris Hart (New Zealand)