Springboks

Pollard returns to captain as Springboks shock with wholesale changes for 2nd Test

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Handre Pollard (Gallo)
Handre Pollard (Gallo)

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has made wholesale changes to his team for Saturday's second Test against Wales in Bloemfontein.

Nienaber has picked two uncapped players - winger Kurt-Lee Arendse and No 8 Evan Roos - in his starting XV and there are a further four newcomers on the bench.

The uncapped players on the bench are prop Ntuthuko Mchunu, lock Ruan Nortje, utility forward Deon Fourie and scrumhalf Grant Williams.

Only four players from last week's match-day squad have retained their places. Experienced lock Eben Etzebeth, who will earn his 99th cap for South Africa, is the only starter from that group, while hooker Malcolm Marx, prop Vincent Koch and utility back Damian Willemse have been included on the bench.

Elsewhere, the experienced Handre Pollard replaces Elton Jantjies at flyhalf and also takes over the captaincy from regular skipper Siya Kolisi.

Springbok team:

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Thomas du Toit

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Deon Fourie, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Damian Willemse

Nienaber stressed the importance of building depth, with the 2023 Rugby World Cup on the horizon.

"We said from the outset that we needed to strike a balance between giving our talented young players an opportunity to show what they can do at international level, and winning," said Nienaber.

"If one looks at the balance between players who have played at this level and those who have performed consistently well for their franchises and clubs, I think we have a nice balance in this squad.

"A number of these players have been with us for a few seasons, while others travelled with us last season to Australia for the Rugby Championship and the year-end tour, and then there are a few new faces who showed during the season that they have the potential to rise to this level of the game, so we are excited to see what they can do on Saturday.

"Wales showed last week that they are fighters and can go for the full 80 minutes and we are expecting nothing different from them this week. This will certainly be a good test for the younger players in the group to measure themselves against some of the best players in Wales, some of whom played for the British & Irish Lions, so everyone knows they will be in for a proper Test on Saturday."

The Bok mentor again opted for a split of six forwards and two backs on the bench, with Willemse's versatility seeing him able to cover flyhalf, centre and fullback, while Williams, who has been waiting in the wings at scrumhalf, provides cover at for his provincial team-mate Jaden Hendrikse.

"We are delighted to see these players get an opportunity at this level and I believe if they play to their potential, they will bolster our depth going forward," said Nienaber.

"They are all very excited at the prospect of wearing the green and gold, but they also know what Wales will bring on the day and that every opportunity will be important."

Nienaber also explained his decision on the captaincy for this week: "Handre is one of our most experienced players and has been part of our core leadership group for a number of years now, I’m sure he will slot into the role with ease."

Nienaber said Wales will be confident despite losing narrowly by 32-29 in Pretoria last week.

"Wales will certainly gain confidence from their performance last week, and I have no doubt they will feel aggrieved by the fact that they lost out so narrowly, so we know we have to produce a top-class performance to win this weekend.

"The set pieces are going to be a key area once again, and we have identified the areas that we need to improve on and have already started working on those facets of the game.

"They are a team that keep going until the final whistle, so we expect them to push us to the limit, but we know what our standards are a team, and every player knows what is expected of him.

"It is definitely going to take a full 80-minute effort to win the match, and if we do well, hopefully the results will take of itself."

Saturday's Test at Free State Stadium kicks off at 17:05.

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