Front rowers Tendai Mtawarira and Bongi Mbonambi, as well as Lood de Jager (lock) have been promoted to the Springboks’ ‘senior’ starting pack for Friday’s must-win Rugby World Cup clash with Italy in Shizuoka.
The inclusion of the three tight forwards are the only changes to the starting XV that did duty in the opening Pool B meeting with New Zealand.
Mtawarira, Mbonambi and De Jager leapfrog Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Franco Mostert respectively, who are all expected to make an impact from the bench after the interval.
Two players drop out from the New Zealand match 23 completely with Trevor Nyakane (who has returned home with a calf injury) and Jesse Kriel (hamstring) not considered because of injury.
Nyakane is replaced by Vincent Koch, while there is not a direct replacement for Kriel. Rassie Erasmus, director of rugby, has opted for only two back replacements on the bench and six forwards.
De Jager, who carried the water against New Zealand, is the other new name to the line-up along with Koch.
“Italy have a very good pack and put a lot of effort in their set phases,” said Erasmus.
“People may think it is a gamble to have only two back replacements but we want to have plenty of ammunition for what is likely to be a major forward battle.
“It’s a 23-player game these days and the players who come on will be expected to contribute almost as much in game time as those who start among the front rowers.
“But for this game we are asking the players we have chosen to start to set the tone.”
The Springboks must win to have any hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
The teams have met 14 times before, with South Africa winning 13, although that solitary defeat (in Florence in 2016) was with a team featuring 10 of Friday’s Bok selection (in what turned out to be Bryan Habana’s final Springbok test).
“Italy have had their eyes on this match for a couple of years and will have planned and schemed how to bring us down once again,” said Erasmus.
“This is a defining match for them and while we were focusing on the New Zealand game, they will have had their eyes on this one as the key to the quarter-finals for them.
“That means we have to be at our absolute best if we are to beat them – we are at the stage already where there are no second chances. That’s a message we have been emphasising to the players this week.”
Erasmus’s decision to have only two backs on the bench was an option he believed the team had the resources to manage.
“We have versatile players in the backs who can cover a number of positions and we have planned for different scenarios,” he said.
“This game is going to be decided by the forwards and at the set phases and we wanted to maximise our options in those battles.”
The match kicks off at 11h45 SA time on Friday (18h45 Japanese time) and will be broadcast on SuperSport 201 and SABC radio channels.
The Springbok team to play Italy in Shizuoka on Friday:
15. Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz, Japan), 57 caps – 60 points (12 tries)
14. Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse, France), 11 – 25 (5t)
13. Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), 11 – 10 (2t)
12. Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers), 42 – 20 (4t)
11. Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks), 10 – 50 (8t)
10. Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls), 43 – 396 (6t, 66c, 74p, 4d)
9. Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England), 26 – 15 (3t)
8. Duane Vermeulen (Vodacom Bulls), 50 – 15 (3t)
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), 51 – 25 (5t)
6. Siya Kolisi (captain, DHL Stormers), 45 – 30 (6t)
5. Lood de Jager (Vodacom Bulls) 41 – 25 (5t)
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), 81 – 15 (3t)
3. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), 33 – 0
2. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 31 – 30 (6t)
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 113 – 10 (2t)
16. Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), 28 – 20 (4t)
17. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), 42 – 5 (1t)
18. Vincent Koch (Saracens, England) 16 – 0
19. RG Snyman (Vodacom Bulls), 18 – 0
20. Franco Mostert (Gloucester, England), 34 – 5 (1t)
21. Francois Louw (Bath, England), 71 – 50 (10t)
22. Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers), 6 – 20 (4t)
23. Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France), 62 – 136 (10t, 7c, 21p, 3d)