Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber made only two changes to his starting team for Saturday’s final round Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test against Argentina at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in Durban, while he also opted to name six forwards and two backs on the replacements bench.
Experienced utility back Frans Steyn will start at flyhalf in place of the injured Damian Willemse, while Pieter Steph du Toit returns to the starting lineup at flanker in place of Franco Mostert, who will provide an impact off the bench.
The notable changes amongst the replacements are the return of hooker Bongi Mbonambi, who makes a welcome return from a knee injury, and Kurt-Lee Arendse, who has completed his suspension following a dangerous tackle last month.
Mbonambi will be joined by strong reinforcements in Vincent Koch (prop) and Duane Vermeulen (No 8), who join Mostert and Kwagga Smith as the forwards on the bench.
Faf de Klerk and Arendse, meanwhile, will provide cover amongst the backs, with De Klerk earmarked as the back-up scrumhalf and flyhalf cover, while Arendse will cover fullback and wing depending on how the match unfolds.
The Springboks are currently level on 14 log points with New Zealand on the Castle Lager Rugby Championship log and trail the All Blacks by 13 points on points’ difference. The Boks, however, will know exactly what they need to do in the match to clinch the title when they take the field as the All Blacks will host Australia in Auckland earlier in the day.
“We showed in the first half last week what we are capable of and our fighting spirit in the dying minutes was admirable,” said Nienaber.
“That made it easy for us to opt for continuity in selection in the starting lineup. Obviously the one change was injury enforced as Damian Willemse has been ruled out due to concussion, and we were pleased the calmness Frans Steyn brought at flyhalf when Damian left the field.
“The energy and enthusiasm Pieter-Steph has been showing at training has also been great, and we know what he is capable of in this loose trio, so I am sure he will make an impact among the loose forwards.”
Of the decision to name a split of six forwards and two backs on the bench, Nienaber said: “We know what challenges Argentina will pose and we feel that this would be the best option for us for this match specifically.
“We have a group of hungry and talented players serving in the bomb squad this week and every player in the match day squad knows what is expected of them if we want to win the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.”
With the match essentially a final, Nienaber admitted that his team were ready for an epic battle, especially with Argentina and Australia also still in the title race depending on the outcome of the two matches.
“We viewed last week as a semi-final and this week as a final, but Argentina are a team that do not give an inch, and they never stop fighting as we saw last week,” said Nienaber.
“They defeated New Zealand away from home against the odds and they registered a convincing victory against Australia at home, so we know we are in for a massive battle.
“There will be a few keys to victory this week, and these include set piece dominance, using our opportunities and ensuring that we do the right things in specific areas of the field.
“It is all or nothing for us this week, and we have a team with several players who have won the Rugby World Cup and the British & Irish Lions Series, so they know it will take nothing less than a quality 80-minute effort to win this match and the competition.”
Nienaber expected another bruising battle against Los Pumas and said: “They are one of the teams whose patriotism radiates in their performances. They are strong in the set pieces and have talented backs and they will challenge us in every department.
“They also never give up, as they showed in the second half last week to bounce back from 22-6 down to 22-20, and they will draw a lot of confidence from that going into this match.
“This is a massive game for both teams, so we need to be switched on mentally and physically from start to end of the match.”
Springbok team to face Argentina in Durban:
15 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 78 caps, 65 pts (13t)
14 – Canan Moodie (Vodacom Bulls) – 2 caps, 5pts (1t)
13 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) – 55 caps, 60 pts (12t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 65 caps, 45 pts, (9t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 32 caps, 110 pts (22t)
10 – Frans Steyn (Toyota Cheetahs) – 77 caps, 156 pts (11t, 10c, 24p, 3d)
9 – Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks) – 9 caps, 10 pts (2t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 17 caps, 0 pts
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 63 caps, 15 pts (3t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 70 caps, 35 pts (7t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Wild Knights) – 63 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 105 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 53 caps, 5 pts (1t)
2 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 54 caps, 65 pts (13t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 66 caps, 5 pts (1t)
16 – Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 51 caps, 55 pts (11t)
17 – Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks) – 14 caps, 0 pts
18 – Vincent Koch (Wasps) – 36 caps, 0 pts
19 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 58 caps, 10 pts (2t)
20 – Duane Vermeulen (Ulster) – 64 caps, 15 pts (3t)
21 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 26 caps, 15 pts (3t)
22 – Faf de Klerk (Yokohama Canon Eagles) – 41 caps, 25 pts (5t)
23 – Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls) – 2 caps, 5 pts (1t)
STATS & FACTS
Springbok record against Argentina in South Africa:
Played 15, Won 14, Lost 1; Points for 550, Points against 272, Average score 37-17; Tries scored 65, Tries conceded 25; Highest score 73, Biggest win 60 pts (73-13), Win % 93%
Springbok record at Hollywoodbets Kings Park (overall):
Played 34, Won 21, Lost 10, Drawn 3; Points for 835; Points against 601; Tries for 87; Tries against: 59.
Springbok team records at Hollywoodbets Kings Park:
Biggest win: 101-0 v Italy on 19 June 1999
Most tries: 15 v Italy on 19 June 1999
Most conversions: 13 v Italy on 19 June 1999
Most penalty goals: 8 v New Zealand on 1 August 2009
Most drop goals: 3 v South America on 3 May 1980 and v Ireland on 6 June 1981
- Eben Etzebeth will extend his run as the most capped Springbok player against Argentina with this match marking his 19th Test against Los Pumas from 2012 to 2022.
- Following his two tries last weekend, Malcolm Marx is now the Springbok hooker with the most Test tries – 13. Bongi Mbonambi is second on the list with 11 Test tries.
- The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 809.
- There are 318 caps in the backline with 491 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 292
- The average caps per player in the backline are 46, the forwards 59, while the players on the bench average 36.
Stewart Joins Ireland Squad In Portugal As Wales Prep Intensifies
Ulster hooker Tom Stewart has joined the Ireland squad in Quinta do Lago to provide additional cover following a hamstring issue picked up by Ronan Kelleher. Kelleher will be managed by the Ireland Medical team over the coming days.
The uncapped Stewart is a former Ireland U20 international who played twice for Emerging Ireland in the Autumn, starting in the victories over the Griquas and the Cheetahs. The Ireland coaching group also included him in the match day preparations for the Ireland ‘A’ game against the All Blacks XV in November.
Stewart’s addition brings the number of Emerging Ireland tourists in the Senior squad to five – Jack Crowley, Joe McCarthy, Jamie Osborne and Cian Prendergast.
The squad will continue to train at The Campus in Quinta do Lago this week before flying to Cardiff on Thursday ahead of the opening round of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations Championship.
Ireland Squad, 2023 Guinness Six Nations:
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 41 caps
Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 14 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 7 caps
Jack Crowley (Munster/Cork Constitution) 2 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 98 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 23 caps
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 8 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 25 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Marys College) 30 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 15 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 9 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 100 caps
Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster/Naas) 3 caps
Jamie Osborne (Leinster/Naas)*
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 47 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 109 caps (c)
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 35 caps
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 8 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 27 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 36 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 33 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 23 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 63 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 121 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 68 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 31 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 18 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 48 caps
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin University) 1 cap
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 89 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 4 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 48 caps
Cian Prendergast (Connacht/Corinthians) 1 cap
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 48 caps
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 13 caps
Tom Stewart (Ulster/Ballynahinch)*
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 45 caps
*denotes uncapped player
2023 Guinness Six Nations Fixtures
Wales v IRELAND
Saturday 4th February 2023, KO 14:15 (IST)
VIRGIN / BBC / RTE Radio / BBC Radio
IRELAND v France
Saturday 11th February 2023, KO 14:15 (IST)
RTE TV / ITV / RTE Radio / BBC Radi0
Italy v IRELAND
Saturday 25th February 2023, KO 14:15 (IST)
RTE TV / ITV / RTE Radio / BBC Radio
Scotland v IRELAND
Sunday 12th March 2023, KO 15:00 (IST)
RTE TV / BBC / RTE Radio / BBC Radi0
IRELAND v England
Saturday 18th March 2023, KO 17:00 (IST)
VIRGIN / ITV / RTE Radio / BBC Radio
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Savea back at the helm of the Hurricanes
All Blacks loose forward Ardie Savea will captain the Hurricanes again for the 2023 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season.
Savea, who will have his 11th season in the side, will mark his first appearance in the competition by playing his 120th game.
The Hurricanes’ season opens against the Reds in round one.
Savea said: “I’m looking forward to the season, especially getting out to the communities, when we play in Levin against the Crusaders for our pre-season game and Palmerston North against the Western Force on Sunday, April 2.
“We’ve just moved into our new facility, and there’s something awesome about change; it’s brought in a lot of energy. It’s refreshing to come in and be in a new space alongside other professional teams. Hopefully, being here can help us move forward and prepare well for our games.”
The facility is part of the New Zealand Campus of Innovation and Sport at what was the Central Institute of Technology at Trentham and houses, several Wellington-based teams.
Coach Jason Holland was delighted to be able to call on Savea’s leadership ability again.
“Ardie is a special leader. He’s the sort of guy you want to follow in whatever he does. He’s worked hard at his leadership around all the small details, around how to get the best out of the people around him.
“He’s been good at driving us as a group, players and management, about being well-planned and clear in our roles in what we’re leading.
“Ards has a great relationship with all the boys and cares about them and the team and that shows in the way he leads.”
Marshall primed for Crusaders coaching opportunity
James Marshall couldn’t escape rugby’s draw after retiring from playing and failed in his promised avoidance of the coaching ranks.
The former Super Rugby title winner with the Hurricanes has fitted into coaching so well that he will spend 2023 as backs coach for the Crusaders in Super Rugby Pacific.
Auckland-born Marshall started his rugby career with Tasman, but when missing a place in the Super Rugby structure, in a team or wider training group, he had a chance as a 20-year-old to play in Italy with Zebre.
It proved a stimulating experience in coping with playing a different style of rugby at a different level.
He returned to New Zealand six months later for another three seasons with Tasman before getting a chance in the Hurricanes’ wider squad. He had spent four years trying to get a place in the Crusaders.
“I could never crack it as a player but I’m here now as a coach,” he said.
“It is surreal to be here now. When I finished rugby, I promised my wife I wouldn’t get into coaching. We had moved around so many times during my career, even when I was playing for the Hurricanes moving to Taranaki every six months.
“We worked it out there were well over 20 houses we lived in throughout my career so when I got to the end of it I did say I wouldn’t be chasing the coaching dream, and I wouldn’t be moving the family around any more.”
However, back in Nelson, he got the chance to work with Andrew Goodman and Shane Christie, which gave him coaching work where he had decided to settle.
“Then a couple of years later,, I get a call from Razor [Scott Robertson] and it really throws a spanner in the works for my wife and when I got the opportunity, it was a no brainer. It’s such a good opportunity for me to learn and see where coaching can now take me.”
He contacted David Havili to see if he felt Marshall could do the job asked of him as backs coach and to see if he would have the backing of the players.
Havili got back in touch to say how much he thought Marshall could add to the environment. He also contacted some of his Hurricanes contacts and admitted being surprised at how supportive they were.
The Crusaders were one of the most successful sides in the sport’s history, and looking from the outside while playing, he had always wondered what went on and how they did it.
“It’s been impressive. It’s a well-run ship. Razor does a great job. Scotty Hansen, the detail he has on the rugby programme. Tamati Ellison, some of his coaching, it’s all world-class.
“It’s been awesome for me as a young coach to witness these guys at work and try and learn as much as I can off them.
“There’s also the players. It’s a pretty impressive squad when you look at it on paper and the chance to work with some world-class athletes and try and teach them as much as I can, but also try and learn from them,” he said.
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