Kolisi returns to lead much-changed Boks as Etzebeth reaches 100-Test milestone

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Eben Etzebeth.  (Photo by Dan Mullan - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)
Eben Etzebeth. (Photo by Dan Mullan - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has made several changes to his team for Saturday's third and final Test against Wales in Cape Town.

The coach has made 11 changes to his starting line-up from the one which lost 13-12 to Wales in Bloemfontein last weekend.

There are milestones for lock Eben Etzebeth, who plays his 100th Test, and hooker Bongi Mbonambi, who brings up 50 Bok caps.

Etzebeth, who made his Springbok debut in June 2012 against England, will become the seventh Springbok to play 100 Tests for his country.

He emulates Bok legends Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana, Tendai Mtawarira, John Smit, Jean de Villiers and Percy Montgomery.

Nienaber, meanwhile, named a new-look backline featuring the versatile Damian Willemse at fullback, Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi back on the wings, and the regular midfield combination of Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am back in the saddle.

Handre Pollard, who captained the Boks last weekend, retains his spot at flyhalf alongside Jaden Hendrikse, who is preferred ahead of Faf de Klerk at scrumhalf.

Regular skipper Siya Kolisi reclaims the captaincy in the loose trio alongside flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit and No 8 Jasper Wiese.

The other changes up front see Lood de Jager pair up with Etzebeth in the second row, while Nienaber named a new front row of props in Trevor Nyakane and Frans Malherbe on either side of Mbonambi, becomes the 45th Bok to reach a half century of Test caps.

On the bench, there is again a six-two forwards-backs split, with De Klerk and Willie le Roux covering the backline positions.

Springbok team:

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Trevor Nyakane

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Elrigh Louw, 22 Faf de Klerk, 23 Willie le Roux

Nienaber said he was proud of Etzebeth and Mbonambi reaching milestones but warned his charges not to lose focus on the job at hand. 

"We are very proud of Eben and Bongi for their achievements, although it would be remiss of us as a team for that to out-shadow the fact that we need to win on Saturday to seal the series against Wales," said Nienaber.

"Wales have shown over the years and in the last two matches that they are real fighters, and it will require a top-class performance from us on Saturday to register a victory and ultimately clinch the series.

"That said, Eben and Bongi have been true stalwarts to Springbok rugby, and we hope that we can make this a special occasion for them. No-one wants to remember losing their 100th or 50th Test, so we need to do everything we can to win the match."

Regarding his selection, Nienaber explained: "We selected a team and player combinations that we think will be the best for this specific game.

"We had an honest discussion with the players telling them what we require from them this weekend and what we would like to see in terms of their performance and hopefully they can produce the goods and we can get the desired result.

"We have high standards as a team, and we would like to maintain that and build momentum with a challenging season lying ahead."

With the series level at 1-1, Nienaber said he expected Wales to come out guns blazing: "We pointed out from the outset of the series that Wales will be desperate and they showed that in the last two weeks.

"We are expecting another hard grind against them and the fact that they will be playing for their first series victory ever in South Africa will make them even more desperate to push us to the limit this weekend, so we know it will be an epic battle.

"That said, we are also playing in what is essentially a final for us and we know that we need to pitch up on the day and deliver a quality 80-minute performance to emerge victorious."

Saturday's clash at Cape Town Stadium kicks off at 17:05.

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