JOHANNESBURG — The return of scrumhalf Ross Cronjé to the Springbok side is the biggest boost for the team that faces Australia in Perth on Saturday in the Rugby Championship. Cronje had to sit out the trip to Salta through injury and Francois Hougaard, once the heir apparent to Fourie du Preez for the Bok no.9 jersey, didn’t impress in his place. Hougaard hasn’t exactly set the world on fire recently for the Boks, even when coming on as a second half substitution for Cronjé. The Bulls’ Rudy Paige has also not lived up to expectation at scrumhalf at an international level, and coach Allister Coetzee might be a little concerned about the lack of depth at no.9. The scrum is hardly weakened with Pieter-Steph du Toit replacing Franco Mostert for no other reason than Mostert deserves a rest after a long, physical Super Rugby season and having played in all five Test this year. He’s played 1603 minutes of rugby so far this year, compared with 1284 for Eben Etzebeth and 1058 for Du Toit. – David O’Sullivan
From SA Rugby:
Ross Cronjé has shrugged off his ankle injury and comes back at scrumhalf in the Springbok team for Saturday’s important Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test in Perth against Australia.
Cronjé, who has established himself as the regular No 9 this season for the Boks, missed the away victory over the Pumas in Salta because of an ankle ligament sprain he suffered in the Port Elizabeth match.
He resumes the scrumhalf duties next to flyhalf Elton Jantjies, while Francois Hougaard returns to the bench.
The only other change to the starting team is at lock, Franco Mostert gets a well-deserved break with Pieter-Steph du Toit returning to the starting team for the first time this season in a rotational switch.
Mostert has been a stalwart for the Springboks and the Emirates Lions this season and gets a break because of his heavy workload.
Du Toit is the current SA Rugby Player of the Year and the big lock is reunited in the second row with Bok captain, Eben Etzebeth, who makes his 60thappearance on Saturday. The 25-year old Etzebeth leads the Springboks for the fourth time this season, while Lood de Jager will start on the bench.
The final change to the match-23 that played in Salta sees the inclusion of experienced flyhalf Handré Pollard amongst the reserves. Pollard, who can also easily slot into midfield if needed, makes his first appearance in a match day squad since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Mostert has established himself as the starting No 5 lock this year, and has been a stalwart figure in the Springboks’ five wins so far this season.
“Franco has played an enormous amount of rugby – at Vodacom Super Rugby level, playing club rugby in Japan and starting all of our Tests matches so far this year,” said Coetzee.
Coetzee recalled halfback Ross Cronje and gave lock Franco Mostert a week off when he named his team for Saturday's game against Wallabies. pic.twitter.com/MyUQvioGPD
— Sim, Firmino (@Erik_Njiru) September 7, 2017
“We have to be sensible in managing the workload of certain players, such as Franco. We are fortunate to have a number of very good locks. Pieter-Steph now gets an opportunity to start again, and we know what he is capable of.”
Pollard has fought his way back to full fitness and comes onto the replacement bench. According to Coetzee, Pollard has worked extremely hard to get back into selection frame after another injury sustained earlier this year.
“I am really satisfied with the way he has trained till now and it’s great for the team to have a player of his calibre on the bench,” said Coetzee.
Coetzee praised the hard work and attitude of the squad, which has resulted in five Springbok wins in a row. The Boks scored a 3-0 series win over France in June and defeated Argentina home and away in the opening rounds of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
“Even though we travelled to three continents in ten days, this group has the desire to get better, and learn from previous experiences,” said Coetzee.
— South African Rugby (@Springboks) September 4, 2017
“The performance in Salta was not perfect, but we are looking forward to the next opportunity to improve as individuals and as a team.”
The Springbok coach again emphasised that the Wallabies will come with a massive challenge on Saturday: “They are a well-coached side, with great deception on attack. Their playmakers and strike runners complement each other very well and we will have to be very sharp on defence.
“If you look at their performances against New Zealand, you will see how well they have functioned in scoring nine tries and 63 points in two matches,” said Coetzee.
The Springbok side to face the Wallabies in Perth:
15. Andries Coetzee (Emirates Lions), 5 caps, 0 points
14. Raymond Rhule (Toyota Cheetahs), 5 caps, 5 points (1 try)
13. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls), 21 caps, 25 points (5 tries)
12. Jan Serfontein (Vodacom Bulls), 31 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
11. Courtnall Skosan (Emirates Lions), 5 caps, 5 points (1 try)
10. Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions), 16 caps, 166 points (2 try, 30 conversions, 32 penalties)
9. Ross Cronje (Emirates Lions), 3 caps, 5 points (1 try)
8. Uzair Cassiem (Toyota Cheetahs) 3 caps, 5 points (1 try)
7. Jaco Kriel (Emirates Lions), 10 caps, 0 points
6. Siya Kolisi (DHL Stormers), 21 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
5. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), 25 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
4. Eben Etzebeth (captain, DHL Stormers), 59 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
3. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cell C Sharks), 28 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
2. Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), 7 caps, 5 points (1 try)
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 92 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
16. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 10 caps, 0 points
17. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), 15 caps, 0 points
18. Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls), 30 caps, 5 points (1 try)
19. Lood de Jager (Vodacom Bulls), 29 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
20. Jean-Luc du Preez (Cell C Sharks), 6 caps, 5 points (1 try)
21. Francois Hougaard (Worcester Warriors, England) 44 caps, 25 points (5 tries)
22. Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls), 20 caps, 188 points (2 tries, 29 conversions, 37 penalties, 3 drop goals)
23. Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers), 24 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Facts and stats
Saturday’s Test match will be the Springboks’ first match at the nib Stadium, which was built in 1910 and renovated in 2004 and 2012. It is the home of the Western Force since 2010 and the seating capacity is 20 251.
South Africa’s first Test match in Perth against Australia was played in 1998 when Gary Teichmann’s team won by 14-13. The last time that South Africa were victorious in Perth was in August 2009, when the side led by John Smit won 32-25.
To date, eight Test matches were played in Perth against Australia. The Springbok record for the eight matches is: P 8; W 3; L 4; D 1. PF: 159; PA: 167; TF: 13; TA: 17; Average score: 20-21. Win%: 38%.
South Africa’s record in Australia is: P 37; W 12; L 24; D 1; PF: 601; PA: 796; TF: 72; TA: 82; Average score: 16-22. Win%: 32%.
South Africa’s overall record against Australia: P: 83; W: 46; L: 36; D: 1; PF: 1 607; PA: 1 448; TF: 188; TA: 148; Average score: 19-17. Win%: 55%.
Total number of caps:
The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 331. There are 86 caps in the backline with 245 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 178 caps.
The average caps per player in the backline are 12, the forwards 31 while the players on the bench average 22.
The average age of the starting 15 is 26.
Records and milestones:
Tendai Mtawarira will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok prop, with 93 caps in this position. He is the third most experienced Springbok forward, behind Victor Matfield and John Smit.
“Beast” will also play in his 42nd Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test – he is the fourth Springbok behind Bryan Habana (53), Jean de Villiers (50) and Victor Matfield (48) to play in 40 Tests or more in this competition.
Mtawarira will also extend his Springbok record to 32 consecutive Test matches in the Tri-Nations / Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
Eben Etzebeth, at 25 years old, will play in his 60th Test match and will become only the 25th Springbok to play in 60 or more Tests.
Handré Pollard needs 12 points to reach 200 Test points.
Should the Springboks score 35 or more points in this Test they would set a new record for most consecutive Tests with a score of 35 or more. They won their previous five Tests with scores of 37-14; 37-15; 35-12 (all against France) and 37-15 and 41-23 against Argentina.