Elton Jantjies will start at fly-half and the electric Damian Willemse at full back when South Africa take on Wales in the first game of a three home Test series at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Jantjies was preferred to regular starter Handre Pollard, who contested the French Top 14 final victory for Montpellier on Friday, while Willemse is chosen ahead of the much more experienced Willie le Roux.
It suggests the Boks could be looking to run with the ball in hand and move away slightly from their reliance on a kicking game, looking instead to wear down the Welsh at altitude before unleashing their powerful forwards from the bench. The rest of the back line looks familiar with wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, centers Lukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende, and scrum-half Faf de Klerk, who offers a kick option from the base of the ruck .
The front row consists of props Frans Malherbe and Ox Nche, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, lock duo Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager, and the back three of captain Siya Kolisi, Franco Mostert and Jasper Wiese. “We have the advantage of having several fairly versatile players, so a guy like Damian Willemse can cover the fly-half and the cross in addition to the back, while Kwagga (Smith) covers each of the loose forward positions and can even fit on the wing with his Blitzbok (Sevens) experience,” head coach Jacques Nienaber said in a South African Rugby press release.
Uncapped lock Salmaan Moerat and loose striker Elrigh Louw have been named among the substitutes and will almost certainly get a run as the Boks use their 6-2 split off the bench in the second half to add fresh muscle to the squad. “We have a fantastic generation of young players who have really worked hard to train and get their hands dirty, and it’s a pleasure for us as coaches to give Salmaan and Elrigh this opportunity.” , said Nienaber.
“We have a plan for the season in terms of giving some of the young players a chance to show what they can do at international level, while taking stock of the seasoned campaigners and where they are in terms of rugby. The second and third Tests will be played in Bloemfontein and Cape Town respectively over the following two Saturdays. Wales have lost their previous 10 matches in South Africa.
South Africa squad: 15 – Damian Willemse
14 – Cheslin Kolbe 13 – Lukhanyo Am
12 – Damian de Allende 11 – Makazole Mapimpi
10 – Elton Jantjies 9 – Faf de Klerk
8 – Jasper Wiese 7 – Franco Mostert
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain) 5 – Jager’s Lood
4 – Eben Etzebeth 3 – Frans Malherbe
2 – Bongi Mbonambi 1 – Beef Nche
Substitutions: 16 – Malcolm Marx
17 – Steven Kitshoff 18 – Vincent Koch
19 – Salmaan Moerat 20 – Elrigh Louw
21 – Kwagga Smith 22 – Herschel Jantjies
23 – Willie le Roux
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