Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth will make a notable return from a shoulder injury as the captain of the team to face New Zealand in the second Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test in Auckland on Saturday.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber named 10 of the 14 players who travelled to New Zealand a week ago to acclimatise to the conditions and time zone in his matchday squad – nine of whom will start, including locks Etzebeth and Lood de Jager and the loose trio of Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert and Jasper Wiese. Malcolm Marx, who was also a member of the advance travelling contingent, will provide cover at hooker off the bench.
In the backline, wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe also receive starts, along with centre Damian de Allende, who will reunite in the Rugby World Cup winning midfield combination with Lukhanyo Am.
Fullback Willie le Roux, Am, Damian Willemse (flyhalf) and the front row of Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe (both props), and Bongi Mbonambi (hooker) will all start after participating in the season-opener against the Wallabies last weekend, which the Springboks won 43-12.
Nienaber again opted for a six-two split on the replacements bench in favour of the forwards, which mainly comprised players who featured against Australia, including No 8 Duane Vermeulen, lock RG Snyman and two backs in flyhalf Manie Libbok and Grant Williams, who can provide cover at scrumhalf and wing.
“We planned to select a squad with a few key combinations of players who are fully acclimatised and settled in in New Zealand, while also selecting some players who started last week, and we are pleased with the balance we were able to strike with this squad,” said Nienaber.
“This allows us to give some players their first taste of international rugby this season alongside a group of players who come off a physical clash against the Wallabies, and we believe this will be beneficial against a top opponent in the All Blacks.
“The fact that we can give a few other players in the bigger squad a run this weekend is fantastic as we want to give as many players as possible game time with an eye on doing well in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and further ahead in the Rugby World Cup.”
Of Etzebeth’s return, Nienaber said: “Eben has been working very hard in the last few months to make a full recovery from his shoulder injury and it’s great to see him return to the field in this important fixture. He’s a vastly experienced player with 110 Test caps, he’s captained the Springboks before and he has been with the group of players in New Zealand for over a week, so he is the ideal person to lead the team this weekend.”
Looking forward to the clash against the All Blacks, Nienaber expected the Boks to face a thorough test all around: “New Zealand have a strong pack of forwards and dangerous backs, and they showed last week what they can do when they have the space to convert their chances into points.
“We need to deliver a strong performance in all departments and our defence needs to be solid against them. This is an important match for both teams with each team only playing three games in the competition this season.”
Springbok team to face New Zealand in Auckland:
15 – Willie le Roux (Vodacom Bulls) – 84 caps, 65 pts (13t)
14 – Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath) – 23 caps, 74pts (11t, 2c, 5p)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 32 caps, 30 pts (6t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Panasonic Wild Knights) – 70 Tests, 45pts (9t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 36 caps, 110pts (22t)
10 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 28 caps, 36 pts (2t, 4c, 4p, 2d)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles) – 46 Tests, 41pts (5t, 2c, 4p)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester) – 20 caps, 5pts (1t)
7 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 63 caps, 15pts (3t)
6 – Kwagga Smith (Blue Revs) – 31 caps, 20pts (4t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Panasonic Wild Knights) – 65 caps, 25pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 110 caps, 15pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 59 caps, 5 pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 57 caps, 60 pts (12t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (Ulster) – 72 caps, 10pts (2t)
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 59 caps, 70pts (14t)
17 – Thomas du Toit (Bath) – 16 caps, 0 pts
18 – Vincent Koch (Cell C Sharks) – 42 caps, 0 pts
19 – RG Snyman (Munster) – 24 caps, 5 pts (1t)
20 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 67 caps, 30 pts (6t)
21 – Duane Vermeulen (SA Rugby) – 66 caps, 15 pts (3t)
22 – Grant Williams (Cell C Sharks) – 2 caps, 0 pts
23 – Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers) – 4 caps, 19 pts (8c, 1p)
Springbok record against New Zealand
Played 103; Won 38; Lost 61; Drawn 4; Points for: 1 674, Points against: 2 143; Tries scored 160, Tries conceded 234; Highest score 46-40; Biggest win 17 points. Win % 37%.
- Eben Etzebeth will captain the Springboks for the 13th time on Saturday. His last Test as captain was on 20 July 2019 against Australia at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.
- Saturday’s clash will mark the 28th time Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am join forces in the Springbok midfield.
- The last time the Springboks suffered a defeat in New Zealand was in 2017. They beat the All Blacks 36-34 in 2018, while the sides played to a 16-16 draw in 2019.
- The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 797.
- There are 320 caps in the backline, with 477 caps among the forwards. On the bench there are a further 280 caps.
- The average caps per player in the backline is 45, the forwards 59, while the players on the bench average 35.
Munster Confirm Three New Signings
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.
Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.
Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.
Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.
Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.
Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.
Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.
The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.
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Key All Black announces sabbatical to play in Japan
All Blacks captain Sam Cane will take up a sabbatical option in his New Zealand Rugby (NZR) contract in 2024 to play a season for Suntory in Japan League One.
The 31-year-old, 95-Test loose forward will miss the 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season with the Chiefs, but will return to New Zealand in June to be available for selection to the All Blacks for the 2024 Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship campaign.
Cane, who is contracted to NZR through to the end of 2025, said he was looking forward to experiencing a new playing environment with Suntory and learning more about a new culture in Japan.
“When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time following the Rugby World Cup to try something new and also a great chance to continue to grow and learn in my rugby and life journey. I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs, but I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and the coaching group to have a successful 2024, and I’m really pleased to be able to return in time to put my best foot forward for selection in the All Blacks.”
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said:
“Sam’s decision to take a sabbatical in 2024 has our full support and we wish him and his family all the best for their time in Japan. There are very few players who have given as much as he has to the jerseys he’s worn in his career to date and it’s a mark of his commitment to the All Blacks that he will return and make himself available for the Test season.”
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan said:
“Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different. He is an exceptional player and influential leader who has been an integral part of the Gallagher Chiefs for many years. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they enjoy their time in Japan after a full-on year.”
Key All Black commits to Gallagher Chiefs until 2025
Dominant loose forward Luke Jacobson has extended his contract with the Gallagher Chiefs, Waikato and New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2025.
The 18-test All Black was a consistent starter for the Gallagher Chiefs this year and a key element of their outstanding DHL Super Rugby Pacific performances. He consequently went on to be named in the All Blacks squad to travel to France.
Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan is delighted to have Jacobson sticking around for another two seasons.
“Luke is an outstanding player; he’s a workhorse, a consistent performer and considered a real warrior within our group. Luke leads by example both on and off the field. He isnt one to waste words and prefers to let his actions speak for themself. In the absence of some senior players who have moved on, I have no doubt Luke will play an integral part providing the leadership and guidance our younger players will be looking for”.
Jacobson has impressed throughout his career, playing for the New Zealand U20s team twice and captaining them in his second season to win the 2017 U20 World Championship title. This aptitude for leadership has seen him pull on the Gallagher Chiefs captain’s armband on multiple occasions.
Waikato Rugby head coach Ross Filipo is excited about Luke extending his career with Waikato. “He is a great man and a great leader who continues to make huge contributions on and off the field and always represents the region with pride.”
Speaking on his signing Jacobson said: “I’m stoked to signing on with the Waikato, Chiefs and NZR for another two years. I love representing these teams and am very proud to be able to call myself a Waikato/Chiefs man and also and All black. I’m hungry to succeed with these teams and tick off a few unticked boxes.”
The 2024 Gallagher Chiefs squad will be named later this year ahead of assembling for pre-season training.