Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth will make a notable return from a shoulder injury as the captain of the team to face New Zealand in the second Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test in Auckland on Saturday.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber named 10 of the 14 players who travelled to New Zealand a week ago to acclimatise to the conditions and time zone in his matchday squad – nine of whom will start, including locks Etzebeth and Lood de Jager and the loose trio of Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert and Jasper Wiese. Malcolm Marx, who was also a member of the advance travelling contingent, will provide cover at hooker off the bench.
In the backline, wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe also receive starts, along with centre Damian de Allende, who will reunite in the Rugby World Cup winning midfield combination with Lukhanyo Am.
Fullback Willie le Roux, Am, Damian Willemse (flyhalf) and the front row of Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe (both props), and Bongi Mbonambi (hooker) will all start after participating in the season-opener against the Wallabies last weekend, which the Springboks won 43-12.
Nienaber again opted for a six-two split on the replacements bench in favour of the forwards, which mainly comprised players who featured against Australia, including No 8 Duane Vermeulen, lock RG Snyman and two backs in flyhalf Manie Libbok and Grant Williams, who can provide cover at scrumhalf and wing.
“We planned to select a squad with a few key combinations of players who are fully acclimatised and settled in in New Zealand, while also selecting some players who started last week, and we are pleased with the balance we were able to strike with this squad,” said Nienaber.
“This allows us to give some players their first taste of international rugby this season alongside a group of players who come off a physical clash against the Wallabies, and we believe this will be beneficial against a top opponent in the All Blacks.
“The fact that we can give a few other players in the bigger squad a run this weekend is fantastic as we want to give as many players as possible game time with an eye on doing well in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and further ahead in the Rugby World Cup.”
Of Etzebeth’s return, Nienaber said: “Eben has been working very hard in the last few months to make a full recovery from his shoulder injury and it’s great to see him return to the field in this important fixture. He’s a vastly experienced player with 110 Test caps, he’s captained the Springboks before and he has been with the group of players in New Zealand for over a week, so he is the ideal person to lead the team this weekend.”
Looking forward to the clash against the All Blacks, Nienaber expected the Boks to face a thorough test all around: “New Zealand have a strong pack of forwards and dangerous backs, and they showed last week what they can do when they have the space to convert their chances into points.
“We need to deliver a strong performance in all departments and our defence needs to be solid against them. This is an important match for both teams with each team only playing three games in the competition this season.”
Springbok team to face New Zealand:
15 – Willie le Roux (Vodacom Bulls) – 84 caps, 65 pts (13t)
14 – Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath) – 23 caps, 74pts (11t, 2c, 5p)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 32 caps, 30 pts (6t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Panasonic Wild Knights) – 70 Tests, 45pts (9t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 36 caps, 110pts (22t)
10 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 28 caps, 36 pts (2t, 4c, 4p, 2d)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles) – 46 Tests, 41pts (5t, 2c, 4p)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester) – 20 caps, 5pts (1t)
7 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 63 caps, 15pts (3t)
6 – Kwagga Smith (Blue Revs) – 31 caps, 20pts (4t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Panasonic Wild Knights) – 65 caps, 25pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 110 caps, 15pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 59 caps, 5 pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 57 caps, 60 pts (12t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (Ulster) – 72 caps, 10pts (2t)
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 59 caps, 70pts (14t)
17 – Thomas du Toit (Bath) – 16 caps, 0 pts
18 – Vincent Koch (Stade Francais) – 42 caps, 0 pts
19 – RG Snyman (Munster) – 24 caps, 5 pts (1t)
20 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 67 caps, 30 pts (6t)
21 – Duane Vermeulen (SA Rugby) – 66 caps, 15 pts (3t)
22 – Grant Williams (Cell C Sharks) – 2 caps, 0 pts
23 – Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers) – 4 caps, 19 pts (8c, 1p)
Springbok record against New Zealand
Played 103; Won 38; Lost 61; Drawn 4; Points for: 1 674, Points against: 2 143; Tries scored 160, Tries conceded 234; Highest score 46-40; Biggest win 17 points. Win %: 37%.
- Eben Etzebeth will captain the Springboks for the 13th time on Saturday. His last Test as captain was on 20 July 2019 against Australia at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.
- Saturday’s clash will mark the 28th time Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am join forces in the Springbok midfield.
- The last time the Springboks suffered a defeat in New Zealand was in 2017. They beat the All Blacks 36-34 in 2018, while the sides played to a 16-16 draw in 2019.
- The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 797.
- There are 320 caps in the backline, with 477 caps among the forwards. On the bench there are a further 280 caps.
- The average caps per player in the backline is 45, the forwards 59, while the players on the bench average 35.