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JOHANNESBURG — Poor Warren Whiteley can’t get a break. Just as he returns from injury and starts re-stamping his authority in the Springbok side, he picks up another injury. He missed much of the Super Rugby season from March as well as the June internationals against Wales and England with groin and knee injuries. He came back for the Rugby Championship and played one of his best games in the green and gold against New Zealand in Wellington. His contribution as a senior leader was also evident as he gave support to Siya Kolisi. He’s again sidelined with the recurring groin injury, which has opened the door for the ebullient Sikhumbuzo Notshe. Notshe, who has played four Tests off the bench, is in the starting XV for Saturday’s Test against Australia in PE. Cheslin Kolbe gets his first start as a result of injuries to key backline players, but also as reward for his electrifying performance in Wellington. There was some speculation earlier in the week that coach Rassie Erasmus might give Damian Willemse a run-on start at fullback, but the coach has decided not to tweak too much and Willie le Roux takes up his rightful place. One small surprise is Steven Kitshoff returns to the bench in place of Beast Mtawarira. It’s not an unusual situation for the Ginger Ninja who has only ever had four starts in 31 Tests, two of them coming in the two most recent Bok Tests. Despite the hype around the return of Vincent Koch and the call-up for Blitzbok star Ruhan Nel, neither have made the squad for Saturday’s Test. – Chris Bateman
From SA Rugby
Cheslin Kolbe (wing) and Sikhumbuzo Notshe (No 8) will make their run-on debuts for the Springboks against the Wallabies in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, when the two teams meet in the penultimate round of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
The inclusion of Kolbe on the right wing and Notshe in the pack are two of four personnel changes to the Springbok starting team that beat the All Blacks in an epic clash two weeks ago in Wellington, New Zealand.
Kolbe made his Springbok debut in Brisbane three weeks ago and was sent on as an early replacement against the All Blacks in Wellington the following week, scoring a vital try early in the second half.
Warren Whiteley sustained a groin injury earlier in the week, which has ruled him out of action for this Saturday, paving the way for Notshe to earn his first start for the Springboks.
Jesse Kriel, who started at right wing in Wellington, moves back to outside centre. Kriel is set to partner the strong running Andre Esterhuizen in a revamped Springbok midfield as a result of the injuries to Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am.
Up front there is a rotation at loosehead prop between Tendai Mtawarira and Steven Kitshoff, who on this occasion will provide impact off the bench. The rest of the starting line-up is unchanged, with Mtawarira set to make his 106th Test match appearance for the Springboks on Saturday.
There are however some tweaks to the replacement bench. Marco van Staden comes into the match-day squad as replacement for Francois Louw, and Embrose Papier is now the back-up scrumhalf in place of Ross Cronje. Furthermore, the versatile Damian Willemse returns to the bench.
“Cheslin has been very impressive since he joined the squad a few weeks ago and now he gets a deserved opportunity to start in a big Test,” said SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus.
“The same applies for Notshe, who did very well in the role of impact player during the English series. He has kept on working hard and he deserves his opportunity in the starting team.
“The inclusion of ‘Beast’ in the front row is a straight swop for Steven and Jesse returns to outside centre, a position where he has played most of his Test rugby, next to André, who started in four Tests already this year.”
The bench made a telling impact in Wellington, which is something Erasmus will once more demand from his replacements this weekend.
“The players that we sent on took their chances and that’s what we want from this group. We are trying to build experience in the squad that we can take to the Rugby World Cup,” said Erasmus.
The match will also commemorate the 100th birthday anniversary of former South African President, the late Mr Nelson Mandela, and the Springboks have enthusiastically joined into the various happenings in the Friendly City.
“The activities were not distracting at all – in fact, it served as a motivating factor for us if you just look at how much this Test and the occasion mean for the city and the Springbok supporters,” said Erasmus.
The Springbok team to play Australia in Port Elizabeth (in order of position, name and surname, club or provincial team, number of caps and Test points):
15. Willie le Roux (Wasps, England), 48, 60 – 12t
14. Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse, France), 2, 5 – 1t
13. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls), 34, 45 – 9t
12. André Esterhuizen (Cell C Sharks), 4, 0
11. Aphiwe Dyantyi (Emirates Lions), 7, 25 – 5t
10. Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls), 33, 265 – 3t, 50c, 47p, 3d
9. Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England), 18, 10 – 2t
8. Sikhumbuzo Notshe (DHL Stormers), 4, 0
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers,) 40, 20 – 4t
6. Siya Kolisi (captain, DHL Stormers), 35, 25 – 5t
5. Franco Mostert (Emirates Lions), 24, 5 – 1t
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), 71, 15 – 3t
3. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers,) 23, 0
2. Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), 18, 20 – 4t
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 105, 10 – 2t
16. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 20, 10 – 2t
17. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers, 31, 5 – 1t
18. Wilco Louw (DHL Stormers), 10, 0
19. RG Snyman (Vodacom Bulls), 6, 0
20. Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls), 1, 0
21. Embrose Papier (Vodacom Bulls), 3, 0
22. Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions), 28, 223 – 2t, 42c, 43p
23. Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers), 2, 0
Stats and facts:
- The total test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 466. There are 146 caps in the backline with 320 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 101 caps.
- The average caps per player in the backline are 21, the forwards 40 while the players on the bench average 13. The average age of the starting 15 is 26.
Approaching milestones and records:
- Handré Pollard needs six points to reach 100 tournament points in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
- Eben Etzebeth will play in his record 37th consecutive Test match in this tournament.
- Tendai Mtawarira will play in his 20th Test match against Australia.
- It will be a first Test against Australia for the following players: André Esterhuizen, Cheslin Kolbe, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier and Damian Willemse.
- The referee is Jerome Garcès of France. He made his first full international appearance in 2010, in a match between England and the Barbarians.
- To date, Garcès has refereed in 45 Test matches. The Springboks were involved in 12 of his Test matches, of which they were victorious in three.
- The two assistant referees are Wayne Barnes and Matt Carley, while Graham Hughes will be the TMO. All three officials are from England.
- The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was established in 2009 and has a capacity of 46,000.
- The Springboks played their first Test match on this ground when they were victorious against New Zealand by 13 points (18-5) on 20 August 2011.
- That was their only victory in the 2011 Tri-Nations (now the Castle Lager Rugby Championship). To date, the Springboks are unbeaten on this ground.
- South Africa has played in five Test matches in this stadium. Their record: P: 5; W: 4; D: 1; PF: 143; PA: 53; TF: 14; TA: 5; Average score: 29-11; Win%: 80%.
- Top scorers at this stadium are: Elton Jantjies, 28 (2 Tests), Morné Steyn, 27 (2 Tests) and JP Pietersen, 15 (3 Tests). Morné Steyn holds the record for most points in a match when he scored all points (18) against the All Blacks in 2011.
Record against Australia:
- It will be the Wallabies’ fifth visit to Port Elizabeth for a Test match against South Africa. They last played here 45 years ago when John Thornett’s touring side squared the Test series 2-2 in 1963. The previous four Tests were all won by South Africa.
- South Africa’s overall record in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship against Australia is: P: 48; W: 22; L: 23; D: 3; PF: 1,067; PA: 1,057; TF: 101; TA: 104; Average score: 22-22. Win%: 46%.
- South Africa’s overall record against Australia is: P: 86; W: 46; L: 37; D: 3; PF: 1,675; PA: 1,521; TF: 195; TA: 155; Average score: 19-18. Win%: 53%.
- South Africa’s biggest win against Australia was in 2008 in Johannesburg when the Springboks ran in eight tries to win by 53-8. On that occasion, Jongi Nokwe became the first Springbok to score four tries in a Test against Australia.
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