Cape Town - Five uncapped players, two of them in the
starting line-up, have been selected in the Springbok team to face Italy in the
opening round of the Incoming Series at Kings Park in
Durban on Saturday afternoon.
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.
Stalwarts Bryan Habana (wing), Pierre Spies (No
8) and Tendai Mtawarira (prop), who missed the tour last November because of
injury and health issues, are back in the starting team.
JJ Engelbrecht (centre) will start his first
Test for South Africa at outside centre and Bjorn Basson (wing) will earn his
seventh cap after last playing for the Springboks during the away leg of the
Rugby Championships in 2011.
On the bench, Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker), who
also struggled with injuries last year, is back in the Test match day squad. He
will feature in his 22nd Test if he gets game time on Saturday.
Ten players who played in the Springboks’ last
Test of 2012, a 16-15 win over England at Twickenham, have been included in the
match-23 for Saturday. They are Jean de Villiers, who is also the captain,
Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Juandré Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du
Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe, Ruan Pienaar and Pat Lambie.
“This was not an easy team to select as I’ve
been very impressed with the attitude shown by the players in training this
week,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday.
“I’m very happy that we’ve managed to retain
the core of the team from last year for the sake of continuity, but it’s also
great to see a bunch of new players emerge from Super Rugby.
“Up front we’ve managed to keep six of the eight
who started against England and at the back there are a number of very exciting
players who have earned their places in the team. I’m very excited to see what
this new-look backline can do.
“A number of players just missed out on
selection in the match-23, but there is no reason why they can’t force their
way into the reckoning next week.”
Commenting on Saturday’s Test, the first
against Italy in almost three years, 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
upfront 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
17:15, after the match between Scotland and Samoa, which starts at 14:15.
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 Beast 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