Five Vodacom Bulls players have been selected into the South Africa A side that will battle Munster at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork on Thursday with kick-off set for 21h30 CAT.
Cornal Hendricks, Simphiwe Matanzima, Johan Goosen, Ruan Nortje and Elrigh Louw have been named in Mzwandile Stick’s matchday squad for the first of two mid-week games on the year-end tour, ensuring that he struck a good balance of experience and youth in his team.
The Springbok assistant coach took two players from the Springbok squad that trained in Dublin last week for their opening Castle Lager Outgoing Tour Test against Ireland, prop Thomas du Toit and lock Jason Jenkins, while the Du Preez twins. Dan (loose forward) and Jean-Luc (utility forward). were called up to the squad on Sunday.
SA Rugby director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, who was originally expected to join Stick and his coaching team in Cork, meanwhile, joined the Springbok team in France, although he will continue to assist the SA ‘A’ coaches remotely.
Aphelele Fassi (fullback), Cornal Hendriks (centre), Johan Goosen (flyhalf) and Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf) are the capped Boks in the backline, while Jean-Luc du Preez (No 8), Elrigh Louw (flank), Ruan Nortje, Jason Jenkins (both locks) and the entire front row of Du Toit, Ntuthuko Mchunu (both props) and Joseph Dweba (hooker) will all bring their Test match experience to a strong and physical pack of forwards.
Du Toit will captain the team, with Hendricks serving as his deputy.
There are a further three Springboks on the replacements bench in Dan du Preez, Sikhumbuzo Notshe (loose forward) and Grant Williams (scrumhalf).
The backline will be boosted by exciting DHL Stormers wings Leolin Zas and Suleiman Hartzenberg in a talented back three with Fassi, while former Junior Springbok captain and up-and-coming Cell C Sharks loose forward Phepsi Buthelezi will start in a strong loose trio with Louw and Jean-Luc du Preez.
Stick’s bench also features exciting young players in Andre-Hugo Venter (hooker), Simphiwe Matanzima and Sazi Sandi (both props) among the forwards, with former Junior Springboks Sanele Nohamba and Gianni Lombard (both utility backs) as backline cover.
“We are pleased with the quality of the squad we selected, and we are confident that with this thrilling blend of experienced and young players have what it takes to perform against Munster,” said Stick.
“One of the main reasons for selecting SA ‘A’ and Springbok teams for the year-end tour was to cast our net as wide as possible to test our player depth less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup, while also giving as many players as possible top-class game time.
“Most of these players have either been in the Springbok squad in the last two seasons, or they have been on our radar, so this is an ideal opportunity to see them in action against what will be a physical and challenging encounter.”
Stick said the team has been working hard to get their structures in place after assembling in Cork on Sunday, and that every minute on the training field will count in ensuring that they deliver a classy showing.
“The SA ‘A’ coaches had the luxury of spending the week with the Springboks last week, where they attended all the coaches’ meetings and training sessions to give them a taste of Test rugby and what they will expect this week, and this allowed us to hit the ground running,” said Stick.
“The coaches, players and team management know what is expected of them and we are working hard to implement our structures as effectively and efficiently as possible, and I have no doubt we will be a tight unit by the time we take the field.”
Of the challenge posed by Munster, Stick said: “They are one of the top club teams and they balance their physicality with exciting backline play, so we are going to be tested thoroughly.
“That said, we have named an equally exciting team and we have a number of leaders in core positions. Every one of our players will also want to make the most of this opportunity to throw their names in the hat for World Cup selection, which will serve as an extra motivational factor to showcase their talent.”
SA ‘A’ VERSUS MUNSTER STARTING XV:
1. Ntuthuko Mchunu, 2. Joseph Dweba, 3. Thomas du Toit (captain), 4. Jason Jenkins 5. Ruan Nortje, 6. Phepsi Buthelezi, 7. Elrigh Louw, 9. Herschel Jantjies, 8. Jean-Luc du Preez, 10. Johan Goosen, 11. Leolin Zas, 12. Cornal Hendricks (vice-captain), 13. Henco van Wyk, 14. Suleiman Hartzenberg, 15. Aphelele Fassi.
SA ‘A’ VERSUS MUNSTER REPLACEMENTS:
16. Andre-Hugo Venter, 17. Simphiwe Matanzima, 18. Sazi Sandi, 19. Dan du Preez, 20. Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21. Grant Williams, 22. Sanele Nohamba, 23. Gianni Lombard
SA ‘A’ TEAM MANAGEMENT:
Mzwandile Stick – Head Coach, Bafana Nhleko, Joey Mongalo, Wian du Preez – Assistant Coaches, Willie Maree – Technical Analyst, Zintsika Tashe – Operations Manager, Barry McDonald – Logistics Manager, Clement Plaatjies – Team Doctor, Lance Lemmetjies – Physiotherapist, Johan van Wyk – Conditioning Coach