JOHANNESBURG — There was a time in South African Test rugby history when, after a series of poor performances by the Springboks, the selectors would wade in with a very heavy axe. Consider the 1974 series against the British and Irish Lions – considered one of the bleakest periods in South African international rugby (until the 2016 season) – when the Boks suffered what was then their worst ever defeat in the second test 9-28. Panic set in and 11 changes were made to the team. In that four Test series, 33 players were used. These days, with only coach Allister Coetzee making the final team decision, players aren’t chopped as dramatically after history-making defeats. However Coetzee has made significant positional changes in the scrum when naming the team for Saturday’s clash against the All Blacks at Newlands in Cape Town. Only one player has been dropped from the team that played against Australia – the 95-cap veteran Beast Mtawarira. His critics will say the move is long overdue, but if a prop was to be dropped Ruan Dreyer was probably the bookie’s favourite. He survives and Stephen Kitshoff finally gets a well-deserved start after a record 18 Tests off the bench. The only newcomer to the squad is the Stormers prop Wilco Louw on the bench. There was speculation that Uzair Cassim’s injury would open the door for Daniel du Preez to join his identical twin brother Jean-Luc in the squad, but Coetzee has opted to juggle his loose trio and give Francois Louw the no. 8 jersey, a position he has never played in for the Boks. Pieter-Steph du Toit starts at flank for only the third time in his 28-Test career. He prefers to play lock and has played on the flank only 6 times for the Boks. Meanwhile, the All Blacks come into the game with several injuries and absentees but their incredible depth makes Saturday’s team overwhelming favourites to win at a ground Sonny Bill Williams calls “my second home” due to the great local support for the New Zealanders. – David O’Sullivan
Lood de Jager has earned a well-deserved start, while Pieter-Steph du Toit moves from lock to blindside flank to give the Springboks more lineout options – both on attack and defence – on Saturday against the All Blacks in Cape Town.
In another change to the loose trio, Francois Louw will run out at No 8 in place of the injured Uzair Cassiem, while there is also a first Test start for Steven Kitshoff, who comes into the side as replacement for stalwart prop Tendai Mtawarira.
Kitshoff has played a record 18 matches off the bench in his position behind Mtawarira, the most-capped Springbok prop of all time with 95 caps to his name, who is unavailable for the match because of family reasons.
With Kitshoff earning his first start in the Springbok jersey, Wilco Louw has been drafted onto the bench. The former Junior Springbok and SA ‘A’ prop is the only uncapped player in the match 23.
Regarding the release of Mtawarira from the squad and the selection of Kitshoff, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee said: “Losing your most experience player is not ideal, but family comes first in our caring environment.
“It’s a well-deserved starting opportunity for Steven. He has been working extremely hard in the last two seasons and fully deserves his chance.
“Wilco has established himself during the Vodacom Super Rugby season, while he also continued that form in the Currie Cup. When he gets the opportunity to play, it will be something special on his home ground,” said Coetzee.
The reshuffled loose trio is because of the injury-enforced absence of Cassiem, who sustained a fractured rib in last weekend’s 27-27 draw against the Wallabies in Bloemfontein. Cassiem will be out of action for up to six weeks.
The Springbok coach said his side will be looking for improvement in all areas.
“Our preparations have gone well this week and we are looking forward to Saturday’s Test at DHL Newlands,” said Coetzee.
“Francois is a seasoned openside flanker and although it’s his first Test start in the No 8 jersey, he has a good understanding of the role we expect from him. I believe his vast experience will see him settle in quickly in this role. Jean-Luc du Preez will again provide good impact off the bench.”
Meanwhile, Coetzee added the Springboks will be looking to improve in all facets of the game: “The All Blacks will again test us in every department. They don’t seem to have any weak areas, so we will have to show that we’ve learnt from our experience in Albany. Saturday is another huge opportunity for us to continue to grow as a team and build on our cohesion.”
Saturday’s match kicks off at 17h05 and is both teams’ final fixture of the 2017 Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
The Springbok team to play the All Blacks in Cape Town
15. Andries Coetzee, Emirates Lions – 8 caps, 0 points
14. Dillyn Leyds,DHL Stormers – 4 caps, 0 points
13. Jesse Kriel, Vodacom Bulls – 24 caps, 30 points (6 tries)
12. Jan Serfontein, Vodacom Bulls – 34 caps, 25 points (5 tries)
11. Courtnall Skosan, Emirates Lions – 8 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
10. Elton Jantjies, Emirates Lions / NTT Shining Arcs (Japan) – 19 caps, 191 points (2 tries, 35 conversions, 37 penalties)
9. Ross Cronje,Emirates Lions – 5 caps, 5 points (1 try)
8. Francois Louw, Bath, England – 53 caps, 40 points (8 tries)
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, DHL Stormers – 28 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
6. Siya Kolisi, DHL Stormers – 24 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
5. Lood de Jager, Vodacom Bulls – 31 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
4. Eben Etzebeth (captain), DHL Stormers – 62 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
3. Ruan Dreyer, Emirates Lions – 3 caps, 5 points (1 try)
2. Malcolm Marx, Emirates Lions – 10 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
1. Steven Kitshoff, DHL Stormers – 18 caps, 0 points
16. Chiliboy Ralepelle, Cell C Sharks – 22 caps, 5 points (1 try)
17. Trevor Nyakane, Vodacom Bulls – 33 caps, 5 points (1 try)
18. Wilco Louw, DHL Stormers – uncapped
19. Franco Mostert, Emirates Lions / Ricoh Black Rams (Jap) – 14 caps, 0 points
20. Jean-Luc du Preez, Cell C Sharks – 9 caps, 5 points (1 try)
21. Rudy Paige, Vodacom Bulls – 11 caps, 5 points (1 try)
22. Handré Pollard,Vodacom Bulls – 21 caps, 188 points (2 tries, 29 conversions, 37 penalties, 3 drop goals)
23. Damian de Allende, DHL Stormers – 25 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Facts and Stats
- The total Test caps in the Springbok starting line-up is 331.
- There are 102 caps in the backline and 229 caps amongst the forwards, with a further 136 caps amongst the replacements.
- The average caps per player in the backline is 15, the forwards are 29 and the 17 caps.
- The average age of the starting 15 is 26 years.
- Elton Jantjies needs nine points to reach 200 points in Tests for South Africa.
- Handré Pollard needs 12 points to reach 200 points in Tests for South Africa.
- After a record 18 Tests as a substitute, Steven Kitshoff will on Saturday finally make his first start in a Test match.
- Wilco Louw will make his Test and tournament debut should he come off the bench.
- The very first Test match between South Africa and New Zealand at DHL Newlands in Cape Town took place on 1 September, 1928. The Test was won by New Zealand with a score of 13-5.
- During the next 80 years, eight more Test matches between the Springboks and All Blacks were played at this famous ground, the oldest rugby stadium in South Africa.
- Saturday’s match will be the Springbok’s 10th Test match against New Zealand at this venue.
- The Springbok record for the previous nine matches is: P 9; W 3; L 6; PF: 89; PA: 130; TF: 7; TA: 12; Average score: 10-14. Win%: 33%.
- South Africa’s overall record at the ground: P 52; W 35; L 15; D 2; PF: 1 014; PA: 637; TF: 131; TA: 67; Average score: 20-12. Win%: 67%.
- South Africa’s overall record against New Zealand is: P: 94; W: 35; L: 56; D: 3; PF: 1 458; PA: 1 920; TF: 140; TA: 209; Average score: 16-20. Win%: 37%.