Durban - Captain Jean de Villiers is back in the Springbok starting line-up for their Rugby Championship clash against Argentina at Kings Park on Saturday.
The team also features the return of Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi in the match-23 for the first time since 2013.
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’ inclusion for the final Test in the 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 Handre 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 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 Kolisi and Du Toit, 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 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 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 we 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.
Kick-off for Saturday’s Test is scheduled for 17:05.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Lwazi Mvovo