DHL Stormers captain Jean de Villiers has been passed fit to lead the Springboks into battle against Italy in the opening round of the Castle Lager Incoming Series in Durban on Saturday.
De Villiers, one of three DHL Stormers starred named in the Bok starting XV, suffered a slight hamstring twinge against the Kings this past weekend, but he will be in charge against the Azzurri on Saturday.
The 32-year-old midfield star played in all 12 Tests for the Springboks in 2012 – captaining them on every occasion – and he will also (on Saturday) extend his record as the most-capped Springbok centre, with 69 Tests in this position.
DHL Stormers speedster Bryan Habana will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok wing, with 82 Tests in this position. If he scores a try on Saturday, Habana will also extend his record of 47 Test tries for his country. The third DHL Stormer in the mix, lock Eben Etzebeth, will play his 12th Test for his country this weekend.
Meanwhile, five uncapped players, two of them in the starting line-up, have been selected in this Springbok team to take on Italy – but Stormers ace Siya Kolisi is still awaiting his first-ever Test-match call.
Willie le Roux (fullback) and Jano Vermaak (scrumhalf) will earn their Springbok debuts in the starting team, while the trio of uncapped players on the bench are Trevor Nyakane (prop), Arno Botha (loose forward) and Jan Serfontein (centre), who was part of the SA Under-20 team that won the Junior World Championships last year.
Commenting on Saturday’s Test, the first against Italy in almost three years, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer said: “We respect the Italians but the focus will be on what we want to achieve this weekend.
“In the past they have been regarded as one of the lesser Test nations, but that is no longer the case. Just look at their performances in the Six Nations this year – they beat Ireland and France in Rome and just lost to England in London.
“They have always been exceptionally strong up-front and will test us, especially at scrum time. But they also have some superb backs and are very well led by Sergio Parisse, so we know this will not be a walk in the park.”
The Springbok Test against Italy kicks-off at 17h15, after the match between Scotland and Samoa (also in Durban), which starts at 14h15.
The Springbok team to face Italy in Durban is:
15. Willie le Roux
14. Bryan Habana
13. JJ Engelbrecht
12. Jean de Villiers (captain)
11. Bjorn Basson
10. Morné Steyn
9. Jano Vermaak
8. Pierre Spies
7. Willem Alberts
6. Francois Louw
5. Juandré Kruger
4. Eben Etzebeth
3. Jannie du Plessis
2. Adriaan Strauss
1. Tendai Mtawarira
16. Chiliboy Ralepelle
17. Trevor Nyakane
18. Coenie Oosthuizen
19. Flip van der Merwe
20. Arno Botha
21. Ruan Pienaar
22. Pat Lambie
23. Jan Serfontein
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)