DHL Stormers stalwart Schalk Burger will make his first Springbok start since 2011 when he lines up in the No.7 shirt for the Men in Green & Gold against Scotland in Port Elizabeth on Saturday (kick-off 17h00).
The 2007 World Cup winner and 2004 and 2011 SA Rugby Player of the Year will pack down in a new-look loose trio consisting of himself, long-time Stormers colleague Duane Vermeulen and Cell C Sharks ace Marcell Coetzee, with Willem Alberts (concussion) and Francois Louw (European club commitments) not available this week.
Burger will win his 71st Bok cap on Saturday, but it will be his first start – ironically in the city he was born – for his country since October 2011, during the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
His return to the Springbok starting line-up, after three appearances from the bench this season, caps off a truly remarkable return for one of SA’s most recognisable players – the 31-year-old having fought back from serious injury and illness to win back his Bok place.
Meanwhile, Junior Springboks captain Handré Pollard is one of five uncapped players who have been named in the Springboks’ match-23 for Saturday’s final encounter of the 2014 Castle Lager Incoming Series.
In total, the Springbok starting team shows six changes from the side which beat Wales by 31-30 in Nelspruit last weekend.
The four uncapped players on a new-look bench are Marcel van der Merwe (prop), Stephan Lewies (lock), Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje (loose forward) and Marnitz Boshoff (flyhalf). Also on the bench are Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Francois Hougaard and Zane Kirchner – none of whom have played any Test rugby yet this season.
Two players, Pollard and Marcell Coetzee, have not yet featured for the Springboks this year, whilst four of these are replacements who have been promoted to the starting team, namely Lwazi Mvovo, Burger, Lood de Jager and Coenie Oosthuizen.
Tendai Mtawarira (neck), Flip van der Merwe (knee) Willem Alberts (concussion) and Johan Goosen (knee) were not considered for selection this week. Goosen has been released from the squad and has returned to Bloemfontein to continue his final phase rehabilitation at the Toyota Cheetahs.
“We had to make a number of changes to the team and while team selection is never easy, especially this week when we had to make a few hard decisions, it’s been great to see the excitement under the players for this final Test of the series,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Our plans had always been to try a few new combinations this week against Scotland and I’m looking forward to see the guys grab their opportunities.”
Meyer said Pollard had always been part of his plans for the Castle Lager Incoming Series, but that his selection as SA Under-20 captain meant he could only join the squad this week.
“Handré is a very talented player and has a big opportunity this week, but he’ll have Fourie du Preez’s experience next to him, while he’s played a lot with Jan Serfontein before. It’s great to have the current and a former World Junior Player of the Year in the same backline.
“The other new faces in the starting line-up have been part of our squad for some time and they all deserve a run.”
On the composition of the bench, Meyer commented: “Adriaan, Trevor, Francois and Zane know what it’s about while the other guys will bring energy and enthusiasm with them.
“All of them deserve this chance. ‘Oupa’ still played Varsity and Vodacom Cup rugby earlier this season before he got an opportunity to play Vodacom Super Rugby for the Cheetahs because of injuries. He took his chance and now he’s on the cusp of making his Test debut,” said Meyer.
“Marnitz and Marcel have shone for their franchises this year and patiently waited in the last couple of weeks, always working hard and putting in everything at our training sessions. Stephan only joined us on Monday, but he made an impression already at our training camp in Durban last month and slotted in without any problems this week.
“Marcel, Stephan, ‘Oupa’ and Marnitz all made their Vodacom Super Rugby debuts earlier this year following injuries to other players and it’s great to see so many younger players come through the ranks.”
The Springboks will face a confident Scotland side on Saturday after they’ve beaten the USA, Canada and Argentina on tour in the last three weeks.
“They are always a tough opponent, like we saw last year in Nelspruit, but our aim is to build on the two victories over Wales in the last fortnight,” said Meyer.
* Lock Van der Merwe has joined a long list of injured players who will not play again this season after he was ruled out for six months following examination by specialists in Pretoria. Van der Merwe injured his posterior cruciate ligaments against Wales last week.
Mtawarira, who has a bulging disc in his neck and consulted with a specialist in Durban earlier this week, will be monitored for the next two weeks before a decision on his return to the field will be made.
The following players missed out on the entire or part of the Castle Lager Incoming Series because of injury: Jean de Villiers (knee), Damian de Allende (knee) Eben Etzebeth (foot), Jaque Fourie (ankle), Pat Lambie (bicep), Frans Malherbe (concussion), Scarra Ntubeni (foot), Pieter-Steph du Toit (knee), Franco van der Merwe (ankle), Arno Botha (knee), Pierre Spies (bicep), Louis Schreuder (hand), Gio Aplon (elbow), Juan de Jongh (pneumonia), Mtawarira, Van der Merwe, Alberts and Goosen.
Seven players based in France and England have been released to their clubs and were not available for selection this week. They are Gurthrö Steenkamp, Schalk Brits, Bakkies Botha, Francois Louw, Morné Steyn, Wynand Olivier and Bryan Habana.
The Springbok team to face Scotland in Port Elizabeth is:
15. Willie le Roux – 14 caps, 30 Test points
14. Cornal Hendricks – 2 caps, 10 Test points
13. JP Pietersen – 53 caps, 80 Test points
12. Jan Serfontein – 11 caps, 5 Test points
11. Lwazi Mvovo – 8 caps, 5 Test points
10. Handré Pollard – Uncapped
9. Fourie du Preez (vice-captain) – 69 caps, 75 Test points
8. Duane Vermeulen – 18 caps, 10 Test points
7. Schalk Burger – 70 caps, 65 Test points
6. Marcell Coetzee – 15 caps, 5 Test points
5. Victor Matfield (captain) – 112 caps, 35 Test points
4. Lood de Jager – 2 caps, 0 Test points
3. Jannie du Plessis – 53 caps, 5 Test points
2. Bismarck du Plessis (vice-captain) – 59 caps, 45 Test points
1. Coenie Oosthuizen – 16 caps, 10 Test points
16. Adriaan Strauss – 33 caps, 25 Test points
17. Trevor Nyakane – 3 caps, 5 Test points
18. Marcel van der Merwe – Uncapped
19. Stephan Lewies – Uncapped
20. Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje – Uncapped
21. Francois Hougaard – 27 caps, 20 Test points
22. Marnitz Boshoff – Uncapped
23. Zane Kirchner – 28 caps, 25 Test points
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)