DHL Stormers loose forward star Schalk Burger is back in the Springboks’ starting line-up for Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship opener against Australia at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
Burger’s inclusion at No.8, after a great performance as replacement against the World XV last weekend in Cape Town, is one of five changes to the Springboks’ match-23 for this match.
The other four changes are on the bench, where props Heinke van der Merwe and Frans Malherbe, as well as Lood de Jager (lock) and Lwazi Mvovo (wing) have been included.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said the changes were all part of the plan to rotate players in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup.
“We’re expecting a massive contest for the ball on the ground on Saturday and with Schalk there next to Francois Louw and Marcell Coetzee, as well as Bismarck du Plessis, we’ve got a lot of players who are very good at the breakdown,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Warren Whiteley played very well last weekend, but he knows exactly where he stands and will play again for the Boks this season. For this match though, we decided to go with this specific loose trio.
“I’ve said last week that we will make changes, but it’s also important to keep some form of momentum. Saturday’s match is going to be massive in the context of our season and we have to ensure we tick the right boxes.
“It will be good to see what Heinke, Frans, Lood and Lwazi can do from the bench, while we’ve also opted to keep continuity in the starting team. There will most likely be changes for every match this season as we keep one eye on the World Cup.
“Trevor Nyakane and Vincent Koch performed very well off the bench against the World XV last weekend, but as we have a lot of depth at prop, I’ve decided to give opportunities to Heinke and Frans to stake their claims, especially as both of them have been in excellent form thus far this season.
“Heinke was the in-form loosehead prop in the French Top 14, while Frans anchored a brilliant DHL Stormers scrum this season.
“Lood is back from injury and our plan has always been to bring him back in one of our first three internationals of the season, while we’ve decided to go for Lwazi as he was very good for the Cell C Sharks in Vodacom Super Rugby, is superb under the high ball and knows his way to the try-line.”
Meyer is under no illusions about the enormity of the task as hand in Brisbane on Saturday. The Springboks’ recent record in Australia is not great. The Boks have only beaten the Wallabies once at Suncorp Stadium, two years ago when they won by 38-12, which is South Africa’s biggest away victory ever the men in gold.
“If we’re not at our best, it will be a long day at the office,” said Meyer.
“But we played some brilliant rugby last weekend against the World XV in Cape Town and the challenge this weekend is to build on that and improve in the areas we lacked.
“Our basics have to be spot on and it will also be a great test for our defensive systems against a Wallaby side that can rip any team to shreds with the ball in hand.”
The Springbok team to face Australia in Brisbane is as follows:
15. Willie le Roux (Toyota Cheetahs) – 25 caps
14. JP Pietersen (Cell C Sharks) – 59
13. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls) – Uncapped
12. Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers) – 3
11. Bryan Habana (Toulon) – 106
10. Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls) – 9
9. Ruan Pienaar (Ulster – vice-captain) – 80
8. Schalk Burger (DHL Stormers) – 75
7. Marcell Coetzee (Cell C Sharks) – 26
6. Francois Louw (Bath) – 34
5. Victor Matfield (Vodacom Bulls – captain) – 121
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers) – 33
3. Jannie du Plessis (Cell C Sharks) – 62
2. Bismarck du Plessis (Cell C Sharks) – 70
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks) – 64
16. Adriaan Strauss (Vodacom Bulls) – 44
17. Heinke van der Merwe (Stade Français) – 4
18. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 4
19. Lood de Jager (Toyota Cheetahs) – 9
20. Oupa Mohoje (Toyota Cheetahs) – 7
21. Cobus Reinach (Cell C Sharks) – 6
22. Pat Lambie (Cell C Sharks) – 40
23. Lwazi Mvovo (Cell C Sharks) – 10
BOK STATS AND FACTS:
– The Springbok starting team boasts a total of 767 Test caps (282 in the backline and 485 in the forwards), while there are a further 124 caps worth of experience on the bench.
– South Africa and Australia have played each other 80 times since 1933, with the Springboks winning 45, losing 34 and one was drawn. The Springboks have scored 1,552 points and 184 tries and conceded 1,391 points and 142 tries for an average score of 19-17.
– South Africa and Australia last met on 27 September 2014 at DHL Newlands in Cape Town, when the Boks won by 28-10 with four tries (Jean de Villiers (2), Marcell Coetzee and Patrick Lambie) against one (Adam Ashley-Cooper).
– Victor Matfield will extend his own record as the most capped Springbok in history (currently on 121 Tests). He will also extend his record of 121 Tests as a lock and will be playing against Australia for the 27th time, improving his own South African record.
– Bryan Habana will extend his own record as the most-capped Springbok wing, with 105 caps in this position. If he scores a try he will extend his own record of 57 Test tries for South Africa as well as most Test tries against Australia (9).
– If he scores a try, Bismarck du Plessis will extend his record of nine Test tries for South Africa as a hooker. He will also extend his South African record of 39 Tests with his brother Jannie; and 16 Tests with Jannie and Tendai Mtawarira as the starting front row pairing for the Boks.
– Jesse Kriel will be making his Springbok debut and will become Springbok No.867.
– It will be Heyneke Meyer’s 38th Test in charge of the Springboks since he took over in 2012. Of the previous 37 Tests South Africa have won 26, lost nine and drew twice. He equals Nick Mallett’s number of Tests, with only Peter de Villiers (48) and Jake White (54) having coached in more Tests.
– The referee is Nigel Owens of Wales. It will be his 12th Test involving South Africa. Of the previous 11, South Africa have won seven and lost four. His last appearance was in September 2014 against Australia at Newlands when the Boks won 28-10.