Malcolm Marx has been named to start at hooker for his 50th Test for the Springboks when they face the All Blacks in Nelspruit on Saturday.
Coach Jacques Nienaber has made two other changes to the starting line-up that played Wales last month as scrum-half Faf de Klerk regains his spot with promising star Jaden Hendrickse dropping to the bench.
Meanwhile, on the right wing, Kurt-Lee Adrense gets his second cap as he replaces the injured Cheslin Kolbe, who is sidelined with a broken jaw.
Regular starter Bongi Mbonambi drops to the bench, making way for milestone man Marx whilst Salmaan Moerat is preferred to Elrich Louw amongst the replacements.
Marx deserves to start
Nienaber touched on the changes made and said Marx deserved to start on his milestone day, whilst De Klerk’s experience was a factor in the decision at half-back.
“One of the changes to the starting team were injury-enforced with Kurt-Lee coming in for Cheslin, and with Malcolm, we feel it is a big occasion to play one’s 50th Test so it will be good for him to start, while we believe Faf’s experience and style of play will complement our game against the All Blacks,” he explained.
“These changes resulted in direct swaps to the bench for Bongi and Jaden, and with Salmaan covering lock we can either use Franco (Mostert) at lock or flanker, and we have Kwagga (Smith) who can also provide cover in the loose trio and even on the wing if needs be.
“We played two Tests with a similar team in the Castle Lager Incoming Series, and we feel this is the right squad for this specific challenge against New Zealand.
“The All Blacks are strong all around, and they will come to Nelspruit desperate to avenge their series defeat against Ireland and to prove that they remain one of the powerhouses in world rugby, so we believe experience and physicality will be vital in this Test.”
Nienaber commended Marx for reaching 50 Tests but underlined that winning a milestone game is imperative.
“We are very proud of Malcolm’s achievement, and we wish him all the best for the game. He is a true warrior, and he epitomises what we stand for as the Springboks,” he explained.
“But as we said with the recent milestones of Eben (Etzebeth) and Bongi (Mbonambi), we are preparing for a challenging Test which will be vital in setting the tone for our Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign this year and that is our focus.
“The occasion will be so much more special for Malcolm if we win the Test, and the entire team need to do their best so that he can look back at this occasion with good memories.”
Different challenge to Wales
The tactician knows the All Blacks will be a different challenge but looks forward to the two teams bringing the best out of each other.
“The Springboks and All Blacks have a unique rivalry, and we always bring the best out of one another,” said Nienaber.
“They will play a different style of rugby to Wales, and we have been preparing for that, and like many of the northern hemisphere teams, their set-pieces are strong, and they have fantastic skills in their backline, so we’ll have to be at our best to register a win.
“That said, we had our review of the Wales Tests and we know where we need to improve, and last week’s training camp in Hazyview allowed us to focus on those areas of our game.
“This week our focus is more on New Zealand and the areas of the game that we feel will be vital to give us the best possible chance to start the series on a positive note, and we’ve been working hard on that, and we will continue doing so in the build-up to the match.
“New Zealand have always tested us to the limit, and it will be no different in the next two weeks.”
South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 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 Trevor Nyakane
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Jaden Hendrikse, 23 Willie le Roux
Date: Saturday, August 6
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 17:05 local (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)