Port Elizabeth - Pierre Spies will play in his 50th Test for South Africa when they take on England at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Spies was included in a starting 15 that shows three changes from the one that beat England in the second Test of the Castle Incoming Tour. Willem Alberts (flank) and Pat Lambie (fullback) were not declared fit for the Test.
Jacques Potgieter will make his Springbok debut at flank in the place of Alberts, Gio Aplon has been selected at fullback for Lambie and Wynand Olivier comes in at inside centre for Frans Steyn, who is getting married.
There are two changes on the bench. Flyhalf Elton Jantjies has been selected in a Test squad for the first time and will earn his Bok debut if he gets game time, while Ryan Kankowski takes over from Keegan Daniel.
“Injuries have forced us to make a number of changes, which is never ideal, but this provides an opportunity for players like Gio, Wynand and Jacques to put up their hands,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Gio is our third fullback of the series, but he’s experienced and has been part of our planning. Wynand came on as a replacement in both of the first two Tests and knows our game plan, while Jacques has impressed this year as a very strong ball carrier – hopefully he can continue with the good work Willem has done in the last fortnight.”
Meyer explained the changes on the bench as follows: “Jacques has not played for a while and we felt Ryan is the right option for this game if he needs to take over from Jacques, with his explosive running. Keegan did very well in the first two Tests, but for this match we felt that Ryan is a better option.
“Elton comes in to provide cover at flyhalf and is a very good goal kicking option, something we will miss with Frans not available.
“Bjorn Basson still covers all three positions in the back trio, JP Pietersen or Bryan Habana can play outside centre and Jean will move to inside centre if needed, so we are covered in all positions in the backline.”
The starting XV boast a combined total of 464 Test caps - 299 for the backs and 165 for the forwards.
The Springboks have won the last nine consecutive Tests against England. This is a new record for South Africa against England. New Zealand is the only other country that had nine consecutive wins against England.
This Test will only be the second to be played at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. The Springboks beat New Zealand here last year in the Castle Tri-Nations by 18-5. Morné Steyn scored all points on that occasion with five penalty goals and one drop goal.
South Africa and England have only met once before in Port Elizabeth – in 1984, when the Springboks won 33-15 in the first of two Tests against John Scott’s England side.
Bryan Habana is South Africa’s most capped Springbok wing with 75 Tests and also most experienced player in the squad with 76 Test caps. He is the Springboks’ top try scorer with 40 career tries in Tests (all scored as a wing). He also holds the Springbok record for most career tries in Tests against England, with six. Bryan has played in 10 Tests against England.
Morné Steyn is South Africa’s top try scorer as a flyhalf with seven career tries. Morné will equal Butch James’ record for most capped Springbok flyhalf – 37. This Test will be Morné’s 25th consecutive Test of which only one appearance was not at flyhalf. Only five Springboks have played in more than 25 consecutive Test matches before.
In the only Test at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Morné Steyn scored all points against the All Black in last year’s Castle Tri-Nations Test – 18. He needs 13 points in this Test to replace Braam van Straaten in second place for most points in Tests against England.
Bismarck du Plessis is South Africa’s top try scorer in Tests as a hooker with six Test tries.
Pierre Spies will play in his 50th test for South Africa. He is South Africa’s most capped No. 8 with 44 Tests in this position. Pierre holds the record for most Test tries as a No 8, with seven.
Jean de Villiers will play in his 75th Test for South Africa. It will also be his 60th cap as centre. Jean scored his 20th Test try for the Springboks in Durban two weeks ago against England.
Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis will play together in their record 23rd Test as brothers.
Jacques Potgieter will be South Africa’s 834th Springbok. It is appropriate that he will make his Test debut in Port Elizabeth, his place of birth.
15 Gio Aplon, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtwarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Bjorn Basson