Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has named his matchday squad to face Argentina in Buenos Aires in their first of three Rugby World Cup warm-up games.
The side features 13 changes to the starting XV which claimed a narrow 22-21 victory over Los Pumas at Ellis Park last weekend.
Ahead of the clash at Velez Sarsfield Stadium, we pick out winners and losers from the Springboks team announced.
It’s a bit difficult to narrow the list of winners as every player named is effectively getting their chance to prove themself ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
Nienaber said as much when announcing his team: “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.”
However, there is certainly one big winner in Gerhard Steenekamp, who is set to make his Test debut off the bench against Argentina.
The Bulls loosehead prop impressed during the United Rugby Championship and has an outside chance, albeit a long shot, of making the World Cup squad after Ox Nche’s injury.
Regardless, a Test debut is also a special day for any player and one Steenekamp would have dreamt of since he first trotted out onto a rugby pitch.
Another first on Saturday as hooker Bongi Mbonambi takes over the captaincy from Duane Vermeulen.
The experienced front-rower becomes just the second black Springbok to captain his side and the 65th player to lead South Africa in a Test match.
It’s a memorable occasion for the hooker who will also be donning the Green and Gold for the 60th time, his 30th start.
After a starring debut against Australia, Jean Kleyn is back in the starting line-up to earn his second Test cap for the Springboks.
Ahead of and following his debut for the Springboks, Kleyn spoke about representing South Africa as a dream come true and hopes to emulate the likes of Bakkies Botha.
He will pull on the number four jersey, Botha’s number, on Saturday once again as he looks to force his way up the crowded Springbok locks pecking order.
In July last year, Deon Fourie made history by becoming the oldest Springbok debutant when he came off the bench against Wales in Bloemfontein.
Since then, the 36-year-old has racked up five more appearances for the Springboks – all from the bench – but on Saturday, he will earn his first start for his country in the iconic number six jumper.
It’s just reward for the veteran loose forward, who doubles up as hooker cover for the Boks, as he looks to stake another claim to feature at his first Rugby World Cup.
Much like Kleyn, Andre Esterhuizen had an outstanding game against the Wallabies, possibly his best for the Springboks, but has not featured for the side in the three Tests that followed.
After narrowly missing out on the Rugby World Cup squad in 2019, Esterhuizen has been hell-bent on making the 2023 group and has starred for Harlequins in the Premiership.
Once again, he has been partnered with his ex-Sharks teammate Lukhanyo Am, and in Manie Libbok, he has a similarly styled number 10 to his Harlequins teammate Marcus Smith to help get the best out of his talents.
The inside centre is perfectly equipped to produce another statement performance to prove his worth ahead of the World Cup.
The Springboks coaching staff have backed Libbok to start at fly0half for a third time this year.
With Handre Pollard only expected to return against Wales, it is essential that Libbok gets more comfortable at Test level and starts to dictate the game.
Like Esterhuizen, Libbok has been well equipped to thrive in this clash with the experienced head of Cobus Reinach at scrum-half and Stormers teammate Damian Willemse at full-back and a powerful pack in front of him.
🇿🇦 How the Springboks side looks on paper. #ARGvRSA
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) August 1, 2023
Jean-Luc du Preez
The Sale Sharks forward will get his shot off the bench against Los Pumas, but after spending over a month with the side, he will have been hoping for a start.
Many predicted that he would feature against the All Blacks in round two of the tournament, but that did not come to fruition, and time is running out for him to make an impression on the pitch.
Unfortunately for Du Preez, he covers positions where the Springboks have plenty of depth, but the one positive he has going for him is versatility as he covers second and back-row.
Little to no playing time for scrum-halves
Nienaber will name his Rugby World Cup squad on Tuesday and will make some tough decisions at scrum-half.
The Springboks are brimming with talent at number nine, with 2019 World Cup winners Faf de Klerk, Reinach and Herschel Jantjies as well as Grant Williams and Jaden Hendrikse, who have been putting their hands up.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been sufficient time for some to prove themselves, with Williams impressing with cameos off the bench against Australia and New Zealand but was knocked out in the first minute of his starting Test debut last week.
Jantjies has been dependable for the Boks since his debut but has seemingly dropped down the pecking order and will earn his first minutes for the Boks on Saturday from the bench.
Finally, Hendrikse was on compassionate leave before returning ahead of the clash last week and has not been picked for either game against Argentina, with Nienaber saying “he is just unfortunate” to miss out this weekend.
These factors won’t make Nienaber’s decision any easier and leave the Bok boss with more of a gut call than a form one.
Much like the scrum-half situation, Roos has had few opportunities this year to make his case for selection for the World Cup.
Injuries ruled him out for a large chunk of the Stormers’ season, while Jasper Wiese and Duane Vermeulen have been preferred starters.
It looks unlikely that Roos can force his way into the squad for the World Cup unless he has a breakout game against Argentina.
With Siya Kolisi ruled out through injury, and Vermeulen rested for the second match with Argentina, many backed Am to wear the captaincy armband.
Am led South Africa ‘A’ against the British and Irish Lions in 2021 and is often mentioned as a leader in the side.
While this weekend isn’t his chance to lead the Boks in a Test match, it is a matter of time.