Jantjies starts at flyhalf for Boks, Moerat and Louw in line for Test debuts

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Elton Jantjies (Gallo)
Elton Jantjies (Gallo)

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has named his team for the first Test of the season against Wales in Pretoria on Saturday.

Elton Jantjies starts at flyhalf as Handre Pollard is not considered as he arrived late with the squad from club duties in France.

Damian Willemse also gets a run at fullback, with Willie le Roux featuring on the bench.

The rest of the backline sees familiar faces in the form of wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, centres Lukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende, and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk.

In the front row, Frans Malherbe and Ox Nche will pack down on either side of Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager will join forces at lock, and captain Siya Kolisi will form a loose trio with Franco Mostert and Jasper Wiese.

On the bench, Stormers lock Salmaan Moerat and Bulls No 8 Elrigh Louw are in line to make their Springbok debuts.

With a physical onslaught expected from Wales, Nienaber opted for a six-two split on the bench, with Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf) and veteran fullback Le Roux providing cover among the backs, while the forwards comprise the "Bomb Squad" members Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch.

Moerat, Louw and versatile loose forward Kwagga Smith make up the remainder of the bench.

Springbok team:

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Willie le Roux

"We have a talented group of players, and we believe the match-day squad we selected ticks the boxes in terms of what we would like to achieve in the opening Test against Wales,” said Nienaber.

"We have the added advantage of having several players that are quite versatile, so a guy like Damian Willemse for example can cover flyhalf and centre in addition to fullback, while Kwagga covers each of the loose forward positions and can even slot in at wing with his Blitzbok experience.

"Franco also gives us options at loose forward and lock, so we look forward to seeing what this team can produce on Saturday."

Nienaber was delighted to reward Moerat and Louw, both former Junior Springboks, for their URC form.

"We have a fantastic crop of young players who have really been working hard at training and putting up their hands, and it is pleasing for us as coaches to give Salmaan and Elrigh this opportunity," said the Springbok mentor.

"Salmaan was with us on our tour to the UK last season, and despite being so young he brings a different sense of experience as a former Junior Springbok and SA Schools captain, while Elrigh also featured in a World Rugby U20 Championship and has been playing senior provincial rugby for a while.

"We have a plan for the season in terms of giving some of the young players a chance to show what they can do at international level, while at the same time taking stock of the seasoned campaigners and where they are in terms of their rugby.

"Unfortunately, with such a big squad there will always be a few unlucky players, but it is a fine balancing act to ensure we win Tests, build squad depth, and transform as a team in the way we play.

"We have a plan for the season in terms of giving some of the young players a chance to show what they can do at international level, while at the same time taking stock of the seasoned campaigners and where they are in terms of their rugby.

"This is a long season with the Incoming Series, the Rugby Championship, the year-end tour where we are also hoping to play a few SA A games, while we are also looking further ahead to next year’s Rugby World Cup.

"That said, we are looking forward to seeing what Salmaan and Elrigh have to offer if they get the opportunity to take the field."

Nienaber expected a tough Test against Wales, despite the Dragons struggling in this year's Six Nations.

"Wales have been training together for a few weeks now and we have no doubt that they will give everything against us on Saturday," said Nienaber.

"They are an experienced squad, and they have top class players in their ranks - some of which represented the British &Irish Lions last year - so we are expecting a hard grind of a Test.

"They have physical forwards and backs that spark something from nothing, so we need to deliver a quality performance in order to get our season off to a strong start."

Saturday's Test at Loftus Versfeld kicks off at 17:05.

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