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JOHANNESBURG — Earlier this week, the recalled Bath flanker Francois Louw was waxing lyrical about the new fervour in the Bok camp, which he largely ascribed to the presence of coach Rassie Erasmus. Now Louw is a man who played his Bok rugby under 4 different coaches, so he knows what he’s talking about. However, as we know from our experience with Cyril Ramaphosa, it’s sometimes premature to talk about a new dawn before we’ve seen some concrete results. Two wins out of 4 matches is all we have by which to judge Erasmus. While he has given opportunities to youngsters where his predecessors might have been reluctant to act, Erasmus has yet to set the international stage alight. The upcoming Test against Argentina will be a stern test. Argentine rugby, as demonstrated by the Jaguares, is not to be underestimated. However, Erasmus has picked a side with all the potential to prove that the new dawn is indeed on the rise. Once again, he shows his willingness to throw caution to the wind and give a young player a chance. This time it’s the precocious Stormers flyhalf Damian Willemse, of whom much was expected in the recent World Rugby U20 Championship had he not been injured early on. Willemse is clearly a player capable of great things, and he’ll surely get his chance off the bench. Another coach might have waited for him to get more Super Rugby experience before throwing him into the intensity of Test rugby. But Erasmus’s gambles with the inexperienced youngsters have already paid dividends. The squad looks considerably stronger than the team that held off a weak England side in the recent 3-Test series with the return of Marx, Etzebeth, Louw and Whiteley. – David O’Sullivan
From SA Rugby
Four experienced forwards – Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Francois Louw and Warren Whiteley – have been included in the Springbok team to face Argentina on Saturday, 18 August in Durban in the opening round of the 2018 Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
All four forwards will make their first appearance this year for the Springboks after missing the June internationals with injury.
Furthermore, two uncapped players, Damian Willemse (utility back) and Marco van Staden (loose forward), were included amongst the replacements and are set to make their Springbok Test debuts off the bench at Jonsson Kings Park.
Whiteley is making his first appearance in a Springbok jersey in more than a year after he suffered a groin injury last June against France.
Hamstring trouble prevented Marx, South Africa’s Rugby Player of the Year in 2017, from playing in any of the four June internationals against Wales and England.
Etzebeth struggled with arm and back troubles but, like Marx and Whiteley, he has now recovered and is ready for Test match rugby.
The Bok forward pack has a changed look as a result of the returning quartet, with Erasmus shuffling his loose forward combination and lock pairing for the important Durban clash.
Whiteley comes back into the Springbok starting team at No 8, skipper Siya Kolisi moves over to the other side of the scrum into the No 7 jersey while Louw will start in the No 6 shirt in what will be his 58th Test for South Africa.
Etzebeth and his DHL Stormers team-mate Pieter-Steph du Toit are reunited in the Springbok second row, while the imposing Marx will pack down at hooker between Frans Malherbe and the experienced Tendai Mtawarira, who will run out in his 102nd Test for the Springboks.
In the backline, Makazole Mapimpi will start at right wing in the place of the injured Sbu Nkosi, with André Esterhuizen partnering his Cell C Sharks team mate Lukhanyo Am in the midfield.
Erasmus said he was pleased with the return to Springbok action of Whiteley, Louw, Etzebeth and Marx.
“Our forward depth is very good indeed and the competition for places in the team is healthy, which can only be a good thing for us as we continue to build the depth of our squad,” said Erasmus.
SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby added that he is expecting a very tough contest from the Pumas and reiterated the Argentineans will be energised by the appointment of Mario Ledesma as their new head coach, as well as the recent impressive performances of the Jaguares in Vodacom Super Rugby.
“Their new coach comes with a lot of technical knowledge and experience from his previous coaching roles which is sure to add more firepower to their traditional strengths,” said Erasmus.
“They will be very confident as a result of the Jaguares’ great run on tour in Australasia, where they won all four their matches on the road, as well as their winning performances against our own franchises.”
The Springbok team against Argentina in Durban (in order of name and surname, franchise/club, caps and points – tries, conversions, penalties, drop-goals):
15. Willie le Roux (Wasps, England, 44, 55 – 11t)
14. Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks, 1, 5 – 1t)
13. Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks, 3, 0)
12. André Esterhuizen (Cell C Sharks, 2, 0)
11. Aphiwe Dyantyi (Emirates Lions, 3, 5 – 1t)
10. Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls, 29,246 – 3t, 42c, 46p, 3d)
9. Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England, 14, 5 – 1t)
8. Warren Whiteley (Emirates Lions, 17, 15 – 3t)
7. Siya Kolisi (captain, DHL Stormers, 31, 20 – 4t)
6. Francois Louw (Bath, England 57, 45 – 9t)
5. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers, 36, 20 – 4t)
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers 67, 15 – 3t)
3. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers, 19, 0)
2. Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions, 14, 15 – 3t)
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks, 101, 10 – 2t)
16. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers, 16, 5 – 1t)
17. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers, 27, 5 – 1t)
18. Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks, 4, 0)
19. Marvin Orie (Emirates Lions, 1, 0)
20. Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls, 0, 0)
21. Embrose Papier (Vodacom Bulls, 2, 0)
22. Lionel Mapoe (Emirates Lions, 12, 0)
23. Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers, 0, 0)
Stats and facts:
- There are four players in the starting line-up who will play in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship for the first time – Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am, André Esterhuizen and Aphiwe Dyantyi.
- On the bench, there are a further five players who have not played in the tournament before – Thomas du Toit, Marvin Orie, Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier and Damian Willemse.
- The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 438. There are 96 caps in the backline with 342 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 62 caps.
- The average caps per player in the backline are 14, the forwards 43 while the players on the bench average 8. The average age of the starting 15 is 27.
- The first Castle Lager Rugby Championship (previously the Tri-Nations) match at this venue took place on 15 August 1998 against New Zealand. The Test matchon Saturdaywill be the 11th Castle Lager Rugby Championship match in Durban, but only the second against Argentina.
- The first Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Durban was played on 8 August, 2015. On this day, South Africa suffered their first ever defeat in 20 Test matches against the Pumas (25-37). To date, the winning margin of 12 points is Argentina’s best performance against South Africa.
- It was also the first time in Springbok history that a player from the opposition scored three tries in a Test match against the Springboks, when Juan Imhoff, the Argentinian left wing, scored a hat-trick of tries.
- South Africa’s overall record against Argentina: P: 26; W: 23; L: 2; D: 1; PF: 935; PA: 510; TF: 109; TA: 46; Average score: 36-20. Win%: 88%.
- South Africa’s record in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship against Argentina: P: 11; W: 8; L: 2; D: 1; PF: 341; PA: 213; TF: 35; TA: 19; Average score: 31-19. Win%: 73%.
- South Africa’s biggest win against Argentina was in 2013 at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, south of Johannesburg (73-13). The winning margin of 60 is the 10th highest in a Test match by the Springboks.
- Springbok fullback Willie le Roux will celebrate his 29th birthdayon Saturday. It will be his 45th Test for South Africa.
- The only two Springbok grandsons of two Springbok grandfathers, Francois Louw and Pieter-Steph du Toit, will be playing together in their 20th Teston Saturday(with either both in the starting team or one on the bench). Their grandfathers are Jan Pickard and Piet du Toit respectively.
- Handré Pollard needs only four points for 250 points in his Test career. He also needs 25 points during this tournament for 100 points in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship. He also needs 10 points in this Test to reach 50 career points against Argentina.
- Tendai Mtawarira will become the most capped Springbok against Argentina, surpassing Bryan Habana’s 14 Test caps against the Pumas.
- The referee is Ben O’Keeffe of New Zealand. He was born on 3 January 1989 in Auckland, New Zealand and made his international debut as a referee on 11 June, 2016 in a match between Samoa and Georgia. This Test match will be the 11th of his Test career and the fifth with South Africa involved.
- The Assistant Referees are Angus Gardner of Australia and Andrew Brace of Ireland. The TMO will be Simon McDowell of Ireland.