Boks aim is to start strong against Wales

Salmaan Moerat from the Stormers is in line to make his Springbok debut at the weekend in Pretoria.

Salmaan Moerat from the Stormers is in line to make his Springbok debut at the weekend in Pretoria.

Siya Kolisi has retained the captain’s armband and Salmaan Moerat and Elrigh Louw are in line to make their Springbok debuts from the bench against Wales in Saturday’s opening Test in Pretoria.

Jacques Nienaber named his team for the match yesterday, and Kolisi will lead what the coach believes is a balanced unit for their bid to start the international season strongly.

Kolisi’s Sharks teammate Luhanyo Am will serve as vice-captain for the match on Saturday, although both men would have wanted to help create a better finish for the Sharks than the quarter-finals in the recently-completed United Rugby Championship (URC).

Given the fine performances by Moerat and Louw for the Stormers and Bulls, respectively, in the URC, Nienaber said he expects them to make a big impact off “a strong bench” on Saturday.

Damian Willemse starts at fullback instead of Willie le Roux, while Elton Jantjies is at flyhalf in a backline that features wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, centres Am and Damian de Allende, and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk.

In the front row, Frans Malherbe and Ox Nché pack down on either side of Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager join forces at lock, while Kolisi forms a loose trio with Franco Mostert and Jasper Wiese.

Nienaber said that with a physical onslaught expected from Wales, he opted for a six-two split on the replacements bench, with Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf) and veteran fullback Willie le Roux providing cover among the backs, while the forwards comprise the impactful front row of Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch, Moerat, Louw and versatile loose forward Kwagga Smith.

Nienaber said:

“We have a talented group of players, and we believe the match-day squad we selected ticks the boxes in terms of what we would like to achieve in the opening Test against Wales.”

“We have the added advantage of having several players who are quite versatile, so a guy like Damian Willemse for example can cover flyhalf and centre in addition to fullback, while Kwagga covers each of the loose forward positions and can even slot in at wing with his Blitzbok experience.

“Franco also gives us options at loose forward and lock, so we look forward to seeing what this team can produce on Saturday.”

Nienaber said he was delighted to offer Moerat and Louw — who are both former Junior Springbok players and have made a consistent impact for their respective franchises over the past few seasons — an opportunity to start on the replacements’ bench.

Plan for young players

“We have a fantastic crop of young players who have really been working hard at training and putting up their hands, and it is pleasing for us as coaches to give Salmaan and Elrigh this opportunity,” said the Springbok coach.

“Salmaan was with us on our tour to the UK last season, and despite being so young he brings a different sense of experience as a former Junior Springbok and SA Schools captain, while Elrigh also featured in a World Rugby U20 Championship and has been playing senior provincial rugby for a while.

“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 at the same time taking stock of the seasoned campaigners and where they are in terms of their rugby. That said, we are looking forward to seeing what Salmaan and Elrigh have to offer if they get the opportunity to take the field.

Springbok team:

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, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nché. Replacements: 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.