Port Elizabeth - Port Elizabeth is a special place for the Springboks and the players are excited about facing the Wallabies here at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday, according to assistant coach Mzwandile Stick.
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Stick, who hails from Port Elizabeth, addressed reporters at the team’s hotel on Monday.
Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test is the penultimate match of this year’s competition and the Springboks will complete their fixtures next week when they face the All Blacks at a sold-out Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
The Boks are unbeaten in Test matches at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and Stick said the Boks were looking forward to once more playing in front of the passionate Eastern Cape crowd.
The Springboks have won four of their five Tests at the stadium, while the remaining game (against England in 2012) ended in a draw which equates to an 80% win-record at the 46 000-seater venue.
“The people of the Eastern Cape really love their rugby and they’ve given us unbelievable support whenever the team has played here. There’s a real buzz in the place already,” said Stick, who is a former coaching staff member of the PE-based Southern Kings.
Meanwhile, the Springbok squad was bolstered on Sunday by the arrival of a number of players who played in the weekend’s Currie Cup and other provincial matches.
Uncapped Ruhan Nel, the former Blitzboks star who is nowadays playing in the colours of Western Province, was amongst the second group of players to arrive in the eastern coastal city.
When asked about the addition of Nel to the squad, Stick, himself a former Springbok Sevens captain, couldn’t hide his excitement.
“We’ve seen what Ruhan offered in the Western Province team, and we have identified real potential. So, we want to afford him an opportunity, especially as we continue to build towards the Rugby World Cup next year. There is fresh energy in our squad, and I think Ruhan will add to that,” said Stick.
The hard running Nel was included in the Springbok squad following injuries to centres Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am, and he has been in impressive form in the local Currie Cup.
“We have to give credit to the Sevens system, where they have won two (World Rugby Sevens) series titles in the past three years. There is something that they are doing well, and their players are being recognised. It’s also great that Rassie is willing to look at the sevens player for fifteens,” added Stick.
The Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship home leg against the Wallabies and All Blacks (in alphabetical order - name and surname, position, franchise/club, Test caps and points):
Schalk Brits (Hooker, Unattached), 11, 5 - 1t
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Lock/ loose forward, Western Province), 40, 20 - 4t
Eben Etzebeth (Lock, Western Province), 71, 15 - 3t
Steven Kitshoff (Prop, Western Province), 31, 5 - 1t
Vincent Koch (Prop, Saracens, England), 9, 0
Siya Kolisi (Captain, Flank, Western Province), 35, 25 - 5t
Wilco Louw (Prop, Western Province), 10, 0
Frans Malherbe (Prop, Western Province), 23, 0
Malcolm Marx (Hooker, Lions), 18, 20 - 4t
Bongi Mbonambi (Hooker, Western Province), 20, 10 - 2t
Franco Mostert (Lock, Golden Lions), 24, 5 - 1t
Tendai Mtawarira (Prop, Sharks), 105, 10 - 2t
Sikhumbuzo Notshe (No 8, Western Province), 4, 0
RG Snyman (Lock, Blue Bulls), 6, 0
Marco van Staden (Flank, Blue Bulls), 1, 0
Warren Whiteley (No 8, Golden Lions), 21, 15 - 3t
Faf de Klerk (Scrumhalf, Sale Sharks, England), 18, 10 - 2t
Aphiwe Dyantyi (Wing, Golden Lions), 7, 25 - 5t
André Esterhuizen (Centre, Sharks), 4, 0
Elton Jantjies (Flyhalf, Golden Lions), 28, 223 - 2t, 42c, 43p
Willie le Roux (Fullback, Wasps, England), 48, 60 – 12t
Cheslin Kolbe (Utility back, Toulouse, France), 2, 5 - 1t
Jesse Kriel (Centre, Blue Bulls), 34, 45 - 9t
Lionel Mapoe (Centre, Golden Lions), 14, 10 - 2t
Ruhan Nel (Centre, Western Province), uncapped
Sibusiso Nkosi (Wing, Sharks), 3, 10 - 2t
Embrose Papier (Scrumhalf, Blue Bulls), 3, 0
Handré Pollard (Flyhalf, Blue Bulls), 33, 265 - 3t, 50c, 47p, 3d
Ivan van Zyl (Scrumhalf, Blue Bulls), 3, 0
Damian Willemse (Flyhalf, Western Province), 2, 0