Junior Springbok captain Handré Pollard will get his second Test cap when he lines up next to returning national captain Jean de Villiers and debutant Damian de Allende when South Africa open their Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday (kick-off 17h00).
De Villiers is one of three returning Springboks who played no part in the Castle Lager Incoming Series because of injury. The others are Frans Malherbe and Eben Etzebeth, who have both been selected on the bench.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer moved Jan Serfontein, who had a very good series in June, to the bench as injury cover, with De Villiers and De Allende both returning from injuries, while Morne Steyn will provide back-up at flyhalf and fullback.
“Jan was one of our best players in June, but Jean is our captain and was always going to return once he was fit again,” said Meyer.
“Handré also deserved another opportunity and it will be good to see how he combines with Jean and Damian.
At lock, Lood de Jager will have to fill the considerable boots of the injured Victor Matfield, but he’ll have the experienced Bakkies Botha next to him.
“It’s great to welcome back Jean, Willem, ‘Beast’, Eben and Frans, but I’m also very excited to see what Damian can do after he missed out on making his debut in June because of an injury,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Jean and Damian have played together before, albeit not this way around. But Damian has experience of playing outside centre from his junior days and he got his break at inside centre when he had to step up in Jean’s place.
“Lood has improved a lot over the last couple of months and although it’s a big ask for him to fill the void left by Victor, I know he has the goods to deliver. He will be well-supported by Duane Vermeulen in the line-outs though.”
“We’re up against a formidable opponent on Saturday and we can’t take any chances or make experiments. The players know they have to be switched on mentally and physically, otherwise it could become a long afternoon at Loftus.”
Pat Lambie will return to Durban on Wednesday to play for the Cell C Sharks in the Absa Currie Cup on Friday evening, when they host the Steval Pumas.
Meyer said: “Pat missed four months of Vodacom Super Rugby and although he made his return towards the end of the competition, it was felt that he could do with game time this weekend before we leave for Argentina and we’d like to thank the Sharks for agreeing to give him a run.”
The Springbok team to face Argentina in Pretoria is:
15. Willie le Roux 15 tests 35 points
14. Cornal Hendricks 3 tests 10 points
13. Damian de Allende 0 tests 0 points
12. Jean de Villiers (captain) 96 tests 125 points
11. Bryan Habana 97 tests 275 points
10. Handré Pollard 1 test 13 points
9. Ruan Pienaar 76 tests 130 points
8. Duane Vermeulen 19 tests 10 points
7. Willem Alberts 32 tests 35 points
6. Francois Louw 30 tests 25 points
5. Lood de Jager 3 tests 10 points
4. Bakkies Botha 79 tests 35 points
3. Jannie du Plessis 54 tests 5 points
2. Bismarck du Plessis (vice-captain) 60 tests 45 points
1. Tendai Mtawarira 55 tests 10 points
16. Adriaan Strauss 34 tests 25 points
17. Trevor Nyakane 4 tests 5 points
18. Frans Malherbe 2 tests 0 points
19. Eben Etzebeth 23 tests 0 points
20. Marcell Coetzee16 tests 10 points
21. Francois Hougaard 28 tests 20 points
22. Morné Steyn 56 tests 660 points
23. Jan Serfontein 12 tests 5 points