Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber named an unchanged starting team for their must-win Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday, with the coach making only three changes to the replacements.
Talented young loose forward Elrigh Louw takes over from Duane Vermeulen on the bench, Faf de Klerk returns as scrumhalf cover in place of Cobus Reinach, and Andre Esterhuizen gets a run in place of Warrick Gelant in the match, which has been moved to Estadio Libertadores De América.
With New Zealand on 10 log points, and the Springboks, Australia and Argentina trailing by only one point each on nine points– although Nienaber’s men are currently in second place on the standings due to a favourable points’ difference – all four teams are under pressure to win their remaining matches and preferably with bonus points to give themselves the best possible chance of winning the title.
With the Boks coming off a strong performance against Australia in Sydney in their last match two weeks ago, where they registered a convincing 24-8 bonus-point victory, Nienaber opted to retain the starting team that laid a strong foundation for the win.
“We were in a fortunate position this week not to have any injuries, which allowed us the luxury of selecting the same starting team that ran out in our last match, and we also feel that this team offers us what we need against a physical Argentina outfit,” said Nienaber.
“Our first victory in Australia since 2013 gave us a lot of confidence, and I have no doubt that will boost the players’ confidence going into this match, but that said we are expecting a bruising and intense battle against Argentina in front of a hostile crowd, and we have seen in the past how much confidence they draw from their fans at home.”
Commenting on the changes among the replacements, Nienaber said: “Our plan from the outset was to give a few players a chance to prove what they can do and to build their Test experience, especially with the Rugby World Cup a year away, and there is no better opportunity to do so than in a match which essentially amounts to a semi-final for us if we want to win the tournament.
“We have fantastic depth within our squad with younger and more experienced players, and it requires a fine balancing act to select a squad that we think will be the best team for each match, while at the same time giving most of the players an opportunity to play.”
Zoning in on the match against Argentina, Nienaber said they expected a hard grind.
“It’s always tough to play in Argentina,” said Nienaber.
“They are a passionate rugby nation, and the Pumas will never give an inch. They also draw a lot of energy from their enthusiastic home crowd, so we are expecting a huge battle.
“They place a lot of emphasis on their physicality and their set pieces, and they have skillful backs as well, so they will test us in all departments.
“That said, we have been working hard on the areas of our game that we would like to improve on and we were able to give the players a few days off to rest and freshen up mentally last week, which we believe will set us in good stead for the match.
“We know the magnitude of the challenge ahead and that it will take nothing less than our best efforts for the full 80 minutes to register a victory on Saturday.”
Springbok team to face Argentina in Buenos Aires:
15 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 77 caps, 65 pts (13t)
14 – Canan Moodie (Vodacom Bulls) – 1 cap, 5 pts (1t)
13 – Jesse Kriel (Yokohama Canon Eagles) – 54 caps, 60 pts (12t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 64 caps, 40 pts (8t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 31 caps, 110 pts (22t)
10 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 22 caps, 14 pts (1t, 3c, 1p)
9 – Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks) – 8 caps, 5 pts (1t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 16 caps, 0 pts
7 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 57 caps, 10 pts (2t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 69 caps, 35 pts (7t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Wild Knights) – 62 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 104 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 52 caps, 5 pts (1t)
2 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 53 caps, 55 pts (11t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 65 caps, 5 pts (1t)
16 – Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers) – 2 caps, 0pts
17 – Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks) – 13 caps, 0pts
18 – Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92) – 58 caps, 5pts (1t)
19 – Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls) – 2 caps, 0 pts
20 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 25 caps, 15 pts (3t)
21 – Faf de Klerk (Yokohama Canon Eagles) – 40 caps, 25 pts (5t)
22 – Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins) – 9 caps, 0pts
23 – Frans Steyn (Toyota Cheetahs) – 76 caps, 150 pts (11t, 7c, 24p, 3d)
Springbok record against Los Pumas in Argentina:
Played 15; Won 12; Lost 2; Drawn 1; Points for: 508, Points against: 318; Tries scored 59, Tries conceded 30; Highest score 52-23 Buenos Aires (1993); Biggest win 33 points Salta (2019). Win % 80%.
- Eben Etzebeth will become the most capped Springbok against Argentina with 18 appearances when he takes the field.
- Siya Kolisi will play in his 40th Test as captain.
- The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 741.
- There are 263 caps in the backline with 478 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 225 caps.
- The average caps per player in the backline are 37, the forwards 59, while the players on the bench average 28.
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.