DHL Stormers lock Salmaan Moerat is in line to make his Springbok debuts from the replacements bench against Wales in Saturday’s opening Castle Lager Incoming Series Test at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Moerat, who was a member of the Springbok touring squad for last season’s UK tour has been a stand-out performers for the DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls respectively in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship this season, and given their fine form for their franchises, Nienaber will be expecting them to make a big impact off in what is a strong bench for the match.
There are five DHL Stormers in the Springbok matchday squad with Damian Willemse and Frans Malherbe in the starting line-up and Steven Kitshoff and Herschel Jantjies joining Moerat on the replacements bench.
Willemse will start at fullback and Elton Jantjies at flyhalf in a backline featuring several familiar faces, in wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, centres Lukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende, and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk.
In the front row, Malherbe and Ox Nché will pack down on either side of Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager will join forces at lock, and Springbok captain Siya Kolisi will form a loose trio with Franco Mostert and Jasper Wiese. Am will serve as vice-captain for the match.
With a physical onslaught expected from Wales, Nienaber opted for a six-two split on the replacements bench, with Jantjies (scrumhalf) and veteran fullback Willie le Roux providing cover among the backs, while the forwards comprise the impactful front row of Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch, Moerat, Louw and versatile loose forward Kwagga Smith.
“We have a talented group of players, and we believe the matchday squad we selected ticks the boxes in terms of what we would like to achieve in the opening Test against Wales,” said Nienaber.
Nienaber was delighted to offer Moerat and Louw – who are both former Junior Springbok players and have made a consistent impact for their respective franchises over the last few seasons – an opportunity to start on the replacements bench.
“We have a fantastic crop of young players who have really been working hard at training and putting up their hands, and it is pleasing for us as coaches to give Salmaan and Elrigh this opportunity,” said the Springbok coach.
“Salmaan was with us on our tour to the UK last season, and despite being so young he brings a different sense of experience as a former Junior Springbok and SA Schools captain, while Elrigh also featured in a World Rugby U20 Championship and has been playing senior provincial rugby for a while.
Nienaber expected a tough test against Wales, saying they will give everything as they look to turn things around following a disappointing Six Nations campaign.
“Wales have been training together for a few weeks now and we have no doubt that they will give everything against us on Saturday,” said Nienaber.
“They are an experienced squad, and they have top class players in their ranks – some of which represented the British &Irish Lions last year – so we are expecting a hard grind of a Test.
“They have physical forwards and backs that spark something from nothing, so we need to deliver a quality performance in order to get our season off to a strong start.”
Springbok team to face Wales in Pretoria:
15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 15 caps, 5pts (1t)
14 – Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon) – 18 caps, 45pts (9t)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 26 caps, 25 pts (5t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Munster) – 58 caps, 35 pts (7t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 25 caps, 100 pts (20t)
10 – Elton Jantjies (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes) – 44 caps, 326 pts (2t, 65c, 61p, 1d)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Yokohama Canon Eagles) – 36 caps, 25pts (5t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 11 caps, 0 pts
7 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 51 caps, 5pts (1t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 63 caps, 30 pts (6t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Panasonic Wild Knights) – 56 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 97 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 46 caps, 5pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 48 caps, 45 pts (9t)
1 – Ox Nché (Cell C Sharks) – 9 caps, 0pts
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 46 caps, 50 pts (10t)
17 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 59 caps, 5pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Wasps) – 31 caps, 0 pts
19 – Salmaan Moerat (DHL Stormers) – uncapped
20 – Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls) – uncapped
21 – Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo) – 19 caps, 5 pts (1t)
22 – Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 21 caps, 25pts (5t)
23 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 72 caps, 60 pts (12t)