DHL Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth will play his 50th Test match for the Springboks against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday.
The imposing second-row giant becomes the youngest player to reach the milestone, having made his debut against England in June 2012.
Etzebeth is the 32nd Springbok to reach 50th Test matches, at the age of 24 years, nine months and 12 days, surpassing the record previously held by Pat Lambie (25y, 14d). Meanwhile, the big No.4 will also play in his 27th consecutive match for the Springboks.
The 24-year lock said he and his team mates are looking forward to face the Wallabies in Brisbane and explained that he is enjoying the game of rugby in the same way as when he first started playing as a youngster.
“I enjoy the game and for me it a massive honour to play in the Green and Gold and to represent my country,” said Etzebeth.
“I am here in Australia with a special group of friends, playing for my country and I really do enjoy playing rugby. However, it’s all about the team and not the individual and I hope to make a meaningful contribution to our team effort on Saturday.”
Etzebeth cautioned that although the Wallabies have experienced some difficulties this season, that they are definitely a force to be reckoned with.
“They are a quality team and a good lineout side and we are looking forward to our battle on Saturday. We will have to be at our best to match them and to try to steal some balls,” said the Bok lock.
He is joined in the starting line-up by fellow DHL Stormer Juan de Jongh, with Bongi Mbonambi and Pieter-Steph du Toit amongst the replacements.
Coach Allister Coetzee made four changes in total to the back division which featured in the loss to Argentina in Salta two week ago. One of them is because of injury while another is a positional switch.
Francois Hougaard comes into the side as replacement for Ruan Combrinck, who suffered a fractured leg against the Pumas, and he will play on the left wing, meaning the experienced Bryan Habana moves over to the right.
The new centre combination of De Jongh and Jesse Kriel gets a run in the place of Damian de Allende and Lionel Mapoe, who has been included on the replacements bench. De Jongh and Kriel both featured as replacements for South Africa in the first two Tests against Argentina, in Nelspruit and Salta.
Franco Mostert has been included as one of the six forward replacements, and the bench also features prop Trevor Nyakane, who has shrugged off his ankle niggle.
Coetzee said he is excited to see what impact the new players in the team can make in what will be a big challenge on Saturday.
“Looking at the impact that Juan and Jesse made when they came off the bench in Nelspruit and Salta, then I think now is the right time to give them a starting opportunity,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to play together as a centre combination and both have Test match experience. Juan’s ability to organise at 12 and his calmness in that role will help to guide Elton in his flyhalf duties.”
Coetzee also said the ability of Australia to hold on to the ball through long spells means the Springbok defence will have to be patient and solid.
“The Wallabies are known for their ability to hold onto the ball for long phases, so we are preparing ourselves to make a lot of tackles and to be organised on defence,” said Coetzee, who added that he is expecting the players on the bench to yet again make a strong impact.
“Our bench has made a real impact in each match we’ve played this season. After looking at the Australia versus New Zealand matches, we realise the physical intensity of the forward exchanges, and that’s why we feel that a fresh tight five can sustain the physical intensity.”
Springbok team to face Australia:
15 Johan Goosen (Racing 92)
14 Bryan Habana (Toulon)
13 Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls)
12 Juan de Jongh (DHL Stormers)
11 Francois Hougaard (Worcester Warriors)
10 Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions)
9 Faf de Klerk (Emirates Lions)
8 Warren Whiteley (Emirates Lions)
7 Oupa Mohoje (Toyota Cheetahs)
6 Francois Louw (Bath)
5 Lood de Jager (Toyota Cheetahs)
4 Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers)
3 Lourens Adriaanse (Cell C Sharks)
2 Adriaan Strauss (captain, Vodacom Bulls)
1 Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks)
16 Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers)
17 Steven Kitshoff (Bordeaux)
18 Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls)
19 Franco Mostert (Emirates Lions)
20 Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers)
21 Jaco Kriel (Emirates Lions)
22 Morné Steyn (Stade Francais)
23 Lionel Mapoe (Emirates Lions)