DHL Stormers ace Jean de Villiers will captain a Springbok side also featuring the return of Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi in the match-23 for the first time since 2013 when South Africa host Argentina at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
De Villiers will continue his remarkable recovery from the terrible knee injury he suffered last November in Cardiff and will start his first Test of the season. He will lead the team against the Pumas from outside centre, with Schalk Burger taking over the vice-captaincy.
As a result of De Villiers’s inclusion for the final Test in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, Jesse Kriel will move to right wing.
“Jean’s comeback is truly remarkable and very inspirational and I can’t wait to see what he can offer playing next to exciting youngsters such as Handré Pollard, Damian and Jesse,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Jean now has 160 minutes of rugby behind him since his comeback a month ago and I’m very satisfied that he will be able to make his mark as player and captain.
“Jesse is a very versatile player – he has played at wing before and spent almost the entire Vodacom Super Rugby season at fullback. His aerial skills and work-rate, as well as tactical kicking will be valuable and hopefully he will be given even more space to attack in.”
The forwards on the bench are again rotated due to injuries and players recovering from injuries, which sees the welcome return of Du Toit and Kolisi – both of whom made their last Test appearance as replacements in the 19-10 victory over France in Paris on November 23, 2013.
“Siya missed most of last season because of injury and lack of form but his attitude has been great and he’s been working incredibly hard. He is playing good rugby this year and his inclusion is in line with our decision to keep on mixing things up as we get ready for the Rugby World Cup,” said Meyer.
“Pieter-Steph has also been very unlucky with injuries but his rehabilitation has gone exactly to plan and he got through 40 minutes of rugby for the Cell C Sharks last weekend. It’s clear from training that he is raring to go and I have to compliment everybody involved in his rehab.”
The other changes to the team are all injury-enforced. Marcell Coetzee is back and will take over at flank from Francois Louw, while DHL Stormers prop Vincent Koch will get his first start for the Boks, in place of Jannie du Plessis.
Marcel van der Merwe (prop) has been pulled up to the bench for his first Test of 2015, where Lwazi Mvovo (wing) is also back.
“It will be a massive Test on Saturday, which is why he have decided to build momentum and give combinations more time to settle,” said Meyer.
“We will never accept that we lost our last two Tests. On both occasions we were in positions to win and we let it slip, which is simply not good enough. It will be tough as the Argentineans will be coming for us, as they have been doing in the last three seasons, but it will be a great test for the Boks and I can’t wait for the challenge on Saturday.
“There have been many encouraging signs in Brisbane and Johannesburg, but I’ve always preferred winning results. For most of these matches, we played well, but now we need to get back to winning ways and to do that we have to convert our opportunities into points.”
Meyer added that although Fourie du Preez and Willem Alberts started training with the squad this week, it was decided to give them more time to fully recover from their injuries. Warren Whiteley, Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff were also given more time to fully recover from their injuries.
“They are not 100% ready yet and with the World Cup now six weeks away, we decided against risking them in this match. Whenever the time is right for them to play again, we’ll select them,” said Meyer.
The other injured players not considered for selection were JP Pietersen, Victor Matfield, Louw and Du Plessis.
The Springbok team to face New Zealand in Johannesburg is as follows:
15. Willie le Roux (Toyota Cheetahs) – 27 caps
14. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls) – 2
13. Jean de Villiers (DHL Stormers – captain) – 106
12. Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers) – 5
11. Bryan Habana (Toulon) – 108
10. Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls) – 11
9. Ruan Pienaar (Ulster) – 82
8. Schalk Burger (DHL Stormers – vice-captain) – 77
7. Marcell Coetzee (Cell C Sharks) – 27
6. Heinrich Brüssow (Toyota Cheetahs) – 21
5. Lood de Jager (Toyota Cheetahs) – 11
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers) – 35
3. Vincent Koch (DHL Stormers) – 1
2. Bismarck du Plessis (Cell C Sharks) – 72
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks) – 66
16. Adriaan Strauss (Vodacom Bulls) – 46
17. Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls) – 14
18. Marcel van der Merwe (Vodacom Bulls) – 5
19. Pieter-Steph du Toit (Cell C Sharks) – 2
20. Siya Kolisi (DHL Stormers) – 10
21. Cobus Reinach (Cell C Sharks) – 8
22. Pat Lambie (Cell C Sharks) – 42
23. Lwazi Mvovo (Cell C Sharks) – 11
BOK STATS AND FACTS:
– The Springbok starting team boasts a total of 651 Test caps (341 in the backline and 310 in the forwards), while there are a further 137 caps worth of experience on the bench.
– South Africa and Argentina have played each other 19 times since 1993, with the Springboks winning 18 while one match was drawn. The Springboks have scored 728 points and 88 tries and conceded 361 points and 33 tries for an average score of 38-19.
– South Africa and Argentina last met on 23 August 2014 at the Ernesto Maltearena in Salta. The Springboks beat Argentina by 33-31 thanks to a late penalty from the boot of replacement flyhalf Morné Steyn.
– Bryan Habana will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok wing, with 107 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 Argentina (5) and the Castle Lager Rugby Championship record of 18 tries. He will also play against Argentina for the 10th time, breaking his own South African record.
– Jean de Villiers will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok centre, with 91 Tests in this position and will captain South Africa for the 35th time, placing him third behind John Smit (83) and Gary Teichmann (36). Jean will also be playing in his 51st Castle Lager Rugby Championship game to extend his own SA record.
– If he scores a try Bismarck du Plessis will extend his record of nine Test tries for South Africa as a hooker.
– Three players on the bench, Marcel van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi, will be in the match-23 for the first time in 2015.
– It will be Heyneke Meyer’s 40th Test in charge of the Springboks since he took over in 2012. Of the previous 39 Tests South Africa have won 26, lost 11 and drawn twice. Only two coaches have taken charge in more Springbok matches: Peter de Villiers (48) and Jake White (54).
– There are three sons of ex-Springbok players in the team: Ruan Pienaar (father Gysie), Schalk Burger jnr (father Schalk snr) and Cobus Reinach (father the late Jaco). Pieter-Steph du Toit is the grandson of Piet ‘Spiere’ du Toit. Patrick Lambie is the grandson of a former England international Nick Labuschagne.
– The Springboks’ captain and vice-captain for this weekend, Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger, both matriculated from Paarl Gymnasium.
– The referee is Romain Poite of France. It will be his sixth Test involving South Africa. Of the previous five South Africa have won three and lost two. His last appearance was in November 2014 against Ireland in Dublin, a game the Boks lost 15-29.