Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen will be given as much time as possible to recover from injury while Bismarck du Plessis will start Saturday’s final round Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test against New Zealand at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
This match will be Springbok captain Jean de Villiers’ 50th appearance in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, the most by any South African.
Vermeulen is recovering from a rib cartilage injury and if he doesn’t recover in time to face New Zealand, Schalk Burger will start in the No 8 jersey with Warren Whiteley coming onto the bench.
If Vermeulen is cleared to play, the inclusion of Du Plessis at hooker will be the only change to the team that beat Australia by 28-10 in Cape Town last weekend.
“It’s been good to build some form of continuity and we’ll give Duane as much time as possible before making a final call,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“He’s been one of our best players in the last couple of weeks and is responding well to medical treatment, but if he can’t make it, we can fall back on the experience of Schalk to start at No 8 with Warren coming onto the bench.
“Schalk’s impact last weekend was massive, but so was the rest of the bench and we’ll be looking for more of the same on Saturday.
“At hooker, we’ve decided to rotate Bismarck with Adriaan Strauss, both of whom must rate amongst the best hookers in the world at the moment.”
Meyer said that the Springboks will need to be at their best, defend strongly and execute their attacking plays as well as possible on Saturday if they are going to be victorious against New Zealand.
Over the last three years since the last Rugby World Cup, the All Blacks have established themselves as one of the best Test teams of all time, losing only once and drawing once during this time.
“We’re well aware of the massive task that awaits us,” said Meyer.
“There are areas of the game we know we have to improve on against New Zealand. We’d like to go out there and enjoy the occasion and carry on where we left off against Australia. Hopefully we can get quick ball, like we did towards the end of the Test in Cape Town.”
Lwazi Mvovo has been released to play in the Absa Currie Cup for the Cell C Sharks this weekend.
The Springbok team to face New Zealand in Johannesburg is:
15 Willie le Roux 20 caps 35 points
14 Cornal Hendricks 8 caps 25 points
13 Jan Serfontein 15 caps 5 points
12 Jean de Villiers (captain) 101 caps 135 points
11 Bryan Habana 102 caps 280 points
10 Handré Pollard 5 caps 37 points
9 Francois Hougaard 31 caps 20 points
8 Duane Vermeulen / Schalk Burger 24 caps/72 caps / 10 points/65 points
7 Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje 2 caps 0 points
6 Marcell Coetzee 21 caps 25 points
5 Victor Matfield (vice-captain) 116 caps 35 points
4 Eben Etzebeth 28 caps 0 points
3 Jannie du Plessis 59 caps 5 points
2 Bismarck du Plessis 65 caps 45 points
1 Tendai Mtawarira 60 caps10 points
16 Adriaan Strauss 39 caps 25 points
17 Trevor Nyakane 8 caps 5 points
18 Marcel van der Merwe 4 caps 0 points
19 Bakkies Botha 82 caps 35 points
20 Schalk Burger / Warren Whiteley 72 caps/2 caps 65 points/0 points
21 Cobus Reinach 1 cap 0 points
22 Pat Lambie 35 caps 78 points
23 JP Pietersen 55 caps 85 points
Stats and facts:
•The Springbok starting team boasts a total of 657 Test caps (282 in the backline and 375 in the forwards), while there are a further 296 caps worth of experience on the bench.
•Jean de Villiers will become the first Springbok to play in 50 matches in the Tri-Nations / Castle Lager Rugby Championship. Only Richie McCaw (54) and Keven Mealamu (52) have played more Rugby Championship games.
•De Villiers will also extend his record as the most-capped Springbok centre, with 86 Tests in this position and will captain South Africa for the 30th time, placing him third behind John Smit (83) and Gary Teichmann (38).
•Victor Matfield will extend his record as the most capped Springbok in history (116 Tests). He will also extend his record of 116 Tests as a lock and will also be playing against New Zealand for the 26th time to extend his record.
•Bryan Habana will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok wing, with 101 Tests in this position. If he scores a try, he will extend his record of 56 Test tries for South Africa as well as his Castle Lager Rugby Championship record of 18 tries, and will extend his own SA record of seven career tries against New Zealand.
•If he scores a try, Bismarck du Plessis will extend his record of nine Test tries for South Africa as a hooker. Bismarck and his older brother Jannie will extend their record of playing together in 39 Tests for the Springboks. Bismarck, Jannie and Tendai Mtawarira will also extend their record of 17 Tests as a front-row trio for South Africa.
•It will be the second time in history (first last week) that a Springbok team will have three centurions in the starting line-up.
•The referee is Wayne Barnes of England. This will be his 10th Test involving South Africa. The Springboks have won six and lost three of the previous Tests. The last time he refereed South Africa, was against France on 23 November 2013 at the Stade de France in Paris. The Boks won 19-10.
Springbok Test match records at Ellis Park, Johannesburg:
oMost points – 31 (3t, 5c, 1p) by GK (Gavin) Johnson on 13 April 1995 against Samoa.
oMost tries – four by CM (Chester) Williams on 10 June 1995 and by JL (Jongi) Nokwe on 30 August 2008 against Australia.
oMost conversions – nine by AD (Butch) James on 9 August 2008 against Argentina.
oMost penalty goals – six by PC (Percy) Montgomery on 16 June 2001 against France and by LJ (Louis) Koen on 14 June 2003 against Scotland.
oMost drop goals – two by JT (Joel) Stransky on 24 June 1995 against New Zealand and by JH (Jannie) de Beer on 19 July 1997 against New Zealand.