Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber made three changes to his starting team that ran out for their final Test against Wales for their opening Castle Lager Rugby Championship fixture against New Zealand in Nelspruit on Saturday, where Malcolm Marx will earn his 50th Test cap.
Marx will run out at hooker in place of Bongi Mbonambi, while Faf de Klerk comes in at scrumhalf in a rotational switch with Jaden Hendrikse. The only injury-enforced change is on the right wing, where Kurt-Lee Arendse will earn his second Test cap in place of Cheslin Kolbe, who is recovering from a broken jaw.
Both Mbonambi and Hendrikse will play off the replacements bench, where the only other change is the inclusion of Salmaan Moerat (lock) in the place of Elrigh Louw (loose forward).
“One of the changes to the starting team were injury-enforced with Kurt-Lee coming in for Cheslin, and with Malcolm, we feel it is a big occasion to play one’s 50th Test so it will be good for him to start, while we believe Faf’s experience and style of play will complement our game against the All Blacks,” said Nienaber.
“These changes resulted in direct swaps to the bench for Bongi and Jaden, and with Salmaan covering lock we can either use Franco (Mostert) at lock or flanker, and we have Kwagga (Smith) who can also provide cover in the loose trio and even on the wing if needs be.”
Nienaber added: “We played two Tests with a similar team in the Castle Lager Incoming Series, and we feel this is the right squad for this specific challenge against New Zealand.
“The All Blacks are strong all around and they will come to Nelspruit desperate to avenge their series defeat against Ireland and to prove that they remain one of the powerhouses in world rugby, so we believe experience and physicality will be vital in this Test.”
Nienaber spoke highly of Marx as he faces the important career milestone of 50 Test caps: “We are very proud of Malcolm’s achievement, and we wish him all the best for the game. He is a true warrior, and he epitomises what we stand for as the Springboks.
“But as we said with the recent milestones of Eben (Etzebeth) and Bongi (Mbonambi), we are preparing for a challenging Test which will be vital in setting the tone for our Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign this year and that is our focus.
“The occasion will be so much more special for Malcolm if we win the Test, and the entire team need to do their best so that he can look back at this occasion with good memories.”
Nienaber anticipates the All Blacks to come out guns blazing in their opening two matches at the Mbombela Stadium (Saturday, 6 August) and at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg (13 August) and said they are expecting an equally big onslaught to that which they faced against them in the past.
“The Springboks and All Blacks have a unique rivalry, and we always bring the best out of one another,” said Nienaber.
“They will play a different style of rugby to Wales, and we have been preparing for that, and like many of the northern hemisphere teams, their set pieces are strong, and they have fantastic skills in their backline, so we’ll have to be at our best to register a win.
“That said, we had our review of the Wales Tests and we know where we need to improve, and last week’s training camp in Hazyview allowed us to focus on those areas of our game.
“This week our focus is more on New Zealand and the areas of the game that we feel will be vital to give us the best possible chance to start the series on a positive note, and we’ve been working hard on that, and we will continue doing so in the build-up to the match.
“New Zealand have always tested us to the limit, and it will be no different in the next two weeks.”
Springbok team to face New Zealand in Nelspruit:
15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 18 caps, 12 pts (1t, 2c, 1p)
14 – Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls) – 1 cap, 0 pts
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 28 caps, 25 pts (5t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 60 caps, 35 pts (7t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 27 caps, 100 pts (20t)
10 – Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers) – 62 caps, 633 pts (7t, 86c, 138p, 4d)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles) – 38 caps, 25pts (5t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 13 caps, 0 pts
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 60 caps, 25 pts (5t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 65 caps, 35 pts (7t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Wild Knights) – 58 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 100 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 48 caps, 5pts (1t)
2 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 49 caps, 55 pts (11t)
1 – Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92) – 56 caps, 5pts (1t)
16 – Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 50 caps, 55 pts (11t)
17 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 61 caps, 5pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Wasps) – 34 caps, 0 pts
19 – Salmaan Moerat (DHL Stormers) – 1 cap, 0 pts
20 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 53 caps, 5pts (1t)
21 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 21 caps, 5 pts (1t)
22 – Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks) – 4 caps, 5 pts (1t)
23 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 74 caps, 60 pts (12t)
Springbok record against New Zealand:
Played 101; Won 37; Lost 60; Drawn 4; Points for: 1625; Points against: 2098, Tries scored 156; Tries conceded 229; Highest score 46-40 in Johannesburg (2000); Biggest win 17-0 in Durban, 1928. Win % 36%.
- Only three Tests have previously been played at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit – 2013 against Scotland, 2014 against Wales and 2016 against Argentina.
- To date, the All Blacks have played in 50 Test matches on South African soil.
- Handre Pollard is the second highest point scorer against New Zealand with 120 points in 12 Test matches – only 19 points fewer than Morné Steyn, with 139 points in 13 Test matches.
- Beauden Barrett is third on the All Blacks vs South Africa points-scoring list with 102 points in 15 Test matches.
- The following could be a unique record if achieved: the three Barrett brothers need to score 38 points to reach a 1000 points in Test matches. Their contributions are currently: Beauden Barrett (708 points), Jordie Barrett (229 points) and Scott Barrett (25 points).
- The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is
- There are 234 caps in the backline with 449 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 298
- The average caps per player in the backline are 33, the forwards 55, while the players on the bench average 37.
A fertile breeding ground for international players
One of the significant features to come out of the Springboks’ Castle Lager Outgoing Tour this month – and the November international series in general – was how it underlined the role played by the Vodacom United Rugby Championship in breeding players for successful roles in their national teams.
Indeed, while Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber was initially criticised for ignoring home based players who’d made their names in the Vodacom URC, by the end of the calendar year that had changed, with several newcomers who either first captured the eye in the 16-team cross-hemisphere competition or grew their game there, making an indelible mark.
Understandably, the 2021/22 finalists, the eventual champions DHL Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls, led the way when it came to providing breakout opportunities for players within their system.
Kurt-Lee Arendse, who scored the thrilling try that had Twickenham aghast and even England supporters marvelling at his pace and skill, was one such player.
Arendse made his debut for the Boks in the second Test against Wales in Bloemfontein in July, but it was after France-based Cheslin Kolbe was injured in the third and deciding game against the Welsh that Arendse got his chance to show that he could transfer his sublime form for the Bulls in the Vodacom URC onto the international stage.
He turned in a stellar performance in his first outing against the All Blacks in Nelspruit in August, with his pace and his mastery in the air being a constant thorn to the New Zealanders and he capped it with the opening try of the game.
Unfortunately, Arendse blotted his copybook when red carded following an unfortunate clash with an airborne Beauden Barrett and the injury sustained in that incident, plus the subsequent suspension, prevented him from playing for much of the rest of the Boks’ Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign.
He did return though for the final game against Argentina in Durban as a replacement and in no time at all after he came on, Arendse scored one of his trademark tries, running it in from near the Pumas 10 metre line, off the last move of the game.
The Boks didn’t hit target in that game, and ended second in the Rugby Championship, but Arendse’s star shone, as it did again on the end of season tour.
Arendse was a big contributor to the great Bok counter-attacking that appeared to stun the French in Marseille, his opening try and then the follow up to complete the brace was a talking point when Italy were laid to the sword in Genoa, and then came the Twickenham highlight to the tour.
Arendse is being talked about as a special player, and it was in the Vodacom URC that he first got experience of playing against overseas players and overseas conditions.
Ditto his young Vodacom Bulls team-mate Canan Moodie, who made his Test debut at the age of just 19 as Arendse’s replacement during the international season. His excellent try, plucking a kick out of the air and then running 30 metres to score, was the turning point in the Boks’ favour against the Wallabies in Sydney and will be part of any end of year highlights package.
Moodie started the 2022 calendar year playing Currie Cup rugby for the Bulls, and made a big statement in his debut against DHL Western Province before quickly being elevated into the Vodacom URC team, where his potential was picked up by the national coaches.
Elrigh Louw was another Bulls player who has used the Vodacom URC as a platform to bid for national honours, and he played in the competition in its previous guise as the PRO14 when he was at the Southern Kings.
That was where Louw was first spotted by South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, probably on the recommendation of the then Kings DOR Robbie Kempson.
Louw played for the SA ‘A’ team in November, but in his absence the 2021/22 Vodacom URC Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year, Evan Roos, made full use of his opportunity.
With only the one cap earned in the second Test against Wales to his credit before the tour, Roos played off the bench in the destruction of Italy before transferring his Vodacom URC form to the international stage in London a week later. In that game, fellow DHL Stormers player Marvin Orie also showed he belongs at international level.
Although Orie had played for the Boks before, and was first capped while still at the Emirates Lions, this was his breakout year at international and he confirmed it at Twickenham, where no doubt his experience of being part of the winning Stormers effort in the Vodacom URC final helped his confidence.
His Stormers teammate Salmaan Moerat would have added more Bok appearances in 2022 were he not playing behind arguably the world’s finest lock, Eben Etzebeth, who will grace the Vodacom URC in the colours of the Cell C Sharks going forward.
Deon Fourie and Manie Libbok were two other DHL Stormers players who joined Roos and Moerat in making their Bok debuts this year, with Libbok looking the part as a replacement in Genoa.
Libbok is one of the Vodacom URC’s biggest success stories – not long ago he was struggling to establish himself in the starting teams of the Bulls and Sharks, but thanks to the platform given to him by the Stormers, he has grown into a genuine international quality player.
Which of course is exactly what Damian Willemse is now. The utility back had also played for the Boks before this year, and was with them as a replacement at the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019.
But it was off the back of his Vodacom URC form, and the experience of being in the winning team, that Willemse took the bit properly between his teeth in the international season and made the graduation from fringe international player to the world class player he ended the year as.
And then there is Junior Springbok captain Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, who we first saw when he played as a replacement in last season’s quarter-final, was selected to tour but didn’t play.
With Italy beating Australia for the first time, and Ireland going through the autumn internationals unbeaten, plus Scotland pushing New Zealand all the way before thumping Argentina and being unlucky not to beat the Wallabies at the start of this phase, it could be argued that the success of the Vodacom URC, and the impetus given to the competition by South African participation, was writ large.
Spencer looking to bring innovation to Sky Super Rugby Aupiki
Former All Blacks and Blues first five-eighths Carlos Spencer hopes to pass on the sort of rugby that marked his career as a backs coach for the Blues women’s side in Sky Super Rugby Aupiki in 2023.
The 99-time Blues’ pivot played 44 Tests for the All Blacks and 89 games for Auckland during his career spanning the turn of the century. He also played for Northampton and Gloucester in the English Premiership.
Since building his coaching record after completing his rugby-playing career in South Africa in Gauteng, he has coached in the Republic, the United States and the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Now he has taken the chance to join head coach Willie Walker and fellow assistant coach Linda Itunu with the Blues.
Spencer, 47, said: “When I was playing, I always liked to bring a bit of innovation and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking to the table. Now, as a coach, I want to encourage and help grow those same traits in our Blues wahine.”
Like most of New Zealand, he was caught up in the Black Ferns’ World Cup success, and he anticipates there will be a follow-on effect in Sky Super Rugby Aupiki.
“You’ve seen the rise of women’s rugby and the way the public got right in behind the Black Ferns.
“We’re at an exciting juncture for the sport, and I’m looking forward to getting involved and doing what I can to help grow and support women’s rugby.”
“I’ve known Willie [Walker] for a while. We’ve thrown the touch ball around and have a good relationship. He’s done some fantastic work with the Auckland Storm in the Farah Palmer Cup, and I’m looking forward to exchanging ideas and getting the backline humming.
“I don’t know Linda, but have seen her exploits on the field for many years with the Black Ferns – she was an enforcer on the field,”
Blues chief executive Andrew Hore said having Spencer on board with the Blues organisation was special, and was an example of harnessing the resources available within the franchise’s region.
Constructive talks between World Rugby, Erasmus
World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin and World Rugby Director of Rugby Phil Davies met with South Africa Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus on Thursday and held positive discussions regarding recent events and match official communications in general.
Views were exchanged resulting in a better understanding of the respective positions.
There was agreement that further dialogue was needed in terms of enhancing the process that operates between teams and match officials to ensure all can play their part in creating great spectacles and avoid frustration but in a way that underpins the respect for match officials, coaches and players.
Further dialogue will continue after today’s final Springbok test of the year.
Vodacom URC and CVC shining a light on Community Upliftment Projects
Hooker Roberts joins tour in South Africa
A fertile breeding ground for international players
What rugby is on and where to watch it October – December
Six Nations 2020 – Fixtures & TV Schedule
Farrell Names Ireland’s Six Nations Squad
6 Nations6 days ago
England side to face Springboks
International1 week ago
Six players to join Springbok squad in England
Premiership6 days ago
Argentina international joins London Irish
Premiership6 days ago
Falcons forward heads to France
URC1 week ago
Wasps Hooker makes move to Edinburgh
International1 week ago
Injured Wallabies to depart Spring Tour
International1 week ago
Three Boks make World Rugby’s 2022 Dream Team
International1 week ago
Springboks mix it up for final Test of 2022