South Africa have named a much-changed team for their opening game of the Rugby Championship, against Argentina, in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Hooker Joseph Dweba will make his Springbok bow in one of 12 tweaks to the matchday squad that won the third Test against the British & Irish Lions.
Jacques Nienaber makes 10 changes to his starting side, which features a fresh backline and front-row, and two changes on the bench. With Argentina expected to pose a serious physical challenge, the Springbok coach opts for a six-two split amongst the replacements.
Siya Kolisi retained
The only players who retain their places in the starting team from the final Test against the Lions last weekend are Springbok captain Siya Kolisi (flank), Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager (both locks), Japer Wiese (number eight) and Cobus Reinach (scrum-half).
The changes to the pack of forwards see Ox Nché – who has recovered from his neck injury – and Wilco Louw (both props) join forces with Dweba in the front-row, replacing Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Bongi Mbonambi respectively, while Kwagga Smith replaces Franco Mostert at blindside flank in a loose trio with Kolisi and Wiese.
Elton Jantjies starts at fly-half in a half-back pairing with Reinach, replacing Handré Pollard, while Frans Steyn and Jesse Kriel will join forces in the midfield in place of Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am.
The other changes in the backline sees Damian Willemse replace Willie le Roux at full-back, while Sbu Nkosi and Aphelele Fassi – who made his Springbok debut against Georgia last month – will start at wing in place of Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi respectively.
On the replacements bench, Marvin Orie and Dan du Preez have been drafted in to provide cover at lock and loose forward respectively, while the two backline replacements are Herschel Jantjies (scrum-half) and Morné Steyn (fly-half).
“It is a long season, so it’s important that we manage the players well and rotate our squad to ensure that everyone gets sufficient game time and rest,” said Nienaber.
“We have a talented squad, and we are excited to see some of the players get a chance to show what they can do against a tough Argentinean outfit.
“Most of the players in this matchday squad have been with us since our conditioning camp in Bloemfontein in June, and they’ve been working hard at training and deserve this opportunity to take the field.
“This is a big game for us, and we are looking forward to seeing what these player combinations will deliver as we begin our Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign.”
Nienaber congratulated Dweba on being selected to make his Springbok debut, saying: “Joseph is hard worker and a mobile hooker, which will be valuable traits against a physical side such as Argentina.
“He has shown what he can do for Bordeaux-Bègles and previously for the Toyota Cheetahs, so we are excited to see him make the step-up to this level.”
Nienaber expected a tough Test against Los Pumas and said being physical and accurate in their execution were key factors going into the match.
“Argentina are very physical, so we need to stand up to that challenge in every contest,” he said.
“Their forward pack is renowned for making their presence felt, so our set pieces need to be spot-on and it will be important to dominate at the contact points.
“All-in-all we need to deliver an accurate performance all around and it is vital that we capitalise on the opportunities we have to score points.”
South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nché
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Dan du Preez, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Morné Steyn
Date: Saturday, August 14
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 17:05 local (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Tom Foley (Wales)