Willemse, Kriel and Jantjies earn starting spots for Springboks against Wales

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Damian Willemse. (Photo by Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images)
Damian Willemse. (Photo by Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images)

Damian Willemse, Jesse Kriel and Herschel Jantjies will start against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber made four changes to his match-day squad that defeated the All Blacks.

Willemse, who has 14 Test caps, will earn his fourth start in the green and gold when he runs out at fullback, while it will be Jantjies' third Test in the No 9 jersey as he pairs up with Handre Pollard in the halfback combination.

Kriel, who starts at right wing, will earn his 49th cap in the match that kicks off at 19:30 (SA time).

Willemse comes in for Willie le Roux in a rotational switch, and Jantjies takes over from Faf de Klerk who was ruled out of the squad due to a hip flexor injury. Kriel replaces Sbu Nkosi, who is yet to travel to the UK as he awaits the necessary paperwork.

Jantjies' promotion to the starting line-up sees Cobus Reinach being drafted onto the replacements bench in the only change among the reserves.

"We selected this squad with an eye on maintaining consistency in selection from the Rugby Championship, but at the same time giving players who have been knocking on the door for a while now an opportunity to play," said Nienaber.

"Damian and Herschel have featured off the bench a fair bit and this is a fantastic opportunity to give them a chance to start as we look to build our squad depth with an eye on the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

"Jesse has also been training hard; he is very experienced and he brings the physicality that will be necessary against Wales.

"We know what we have in Willie and Faf, and it is important to give Damian and Herschel game time to develop and measure themselves in starting roles.

"Wales are a quality outfit, and this will present an exciting opportunity for all of these players to make their mark in what is a very important Test to set the tone for this tour, and also in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup."

Nienaber expected Wales to pose a big threat, especially as the Six Nations champions will be playing with a near full-strength squad and given the fact that the Boks have not won in Cardiff since 2013.

"Wales are a tough side to beat and our track record over here in the last few years is evidence of that," said Nienaber.

"We also edged them in the Rugby World Cup semi-final, so we know that this is going to be a hard grind of a Test.

"They may have lost against the All Blacks last week (54-16) but this result was in the absence of a number of key players, so this week will be a completely different proposition.

"They have a formidable pack of forwards and some equally experienced and high-calibre backline players, several of whom played for the British & Irish Lions, and to add to this they will play in cool and possibly wet conditions that they are well suited to, so we know what we are in for.

"That said, we had a good training camp in France last week and some of the overseas-based players were in action for their clubs, so the players are back in the swing of things focused and excited to get back on the field." 

The Springboks will travel to Edinburgh to face Scotland and then London where they will line up against England following this weekend’s match.

New Zealand's Paul Williams is Saturday's referee. He will be assisted compatriot James Doleman and Ireland's Andrew Brace, while another Irishman, Olly Hodges, will serve as the television match official.

Teams:

Wales

TBA

South Africa

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn



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