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Faf de Klerk starts as Springboks make three changes for All Blacks

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Patrick Hamilton/AFP via Getty Images)

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Faf de Klerk has been recalled to start by the Springboks in this Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener at home to the All Blacks in Nelspruit. The former Sale scrum-half, who switched to the Japanese Top League at the end of the 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership season, was No9 for last month’s Test series opener versus Wales.

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However, de Klerk missed the second Test completely before making a 15-minute cameo from the bench in the third Test win that handed the Springboks their 2-1 series victory. He now takes over against New Zealand, getting the call ahead of Jaden Hendrikse in one of three changes made by head coach Jacques Nienaber.

Malcolm Marx will earn his 50th Test cap, running out at hooker in place of Bongi Mbonambi in another rotational change by the Springboks whose only injury-enforced alteration is on the right wing where Kurt-Lee Arendse will earn his second Test cap in place of Cheslin Kolbe, who is recovering from a broken jaw.

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Both Mbonambi and Hendrikse will play off the replacements bench, where the only other change is the inclusion of Salmaan Moerat (lock) in the place of Elrigh Louw (loose forward).

“One of the changes to the starting team was injury-enforced with Kurt-Lee coming in for Cheslin. With Malcolm, we feel it is a big occasion to play one’s 50th Test so it will be good for him to start. We believe Faf’s experience and style of play will complement our game against the All Blacks,” explained Nienaber on why Arendse, Marx and de Klerk will all start for the Springboks.

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“These changes resulted in direct swaps to the bench for Bongi and Jaden, and with Salmaan covering lock we can either use Franco (Mostert) at lock or flanker, and we have Kwagga (Smith) who can also provide cover in the loose trio and even on the wing if needs be.

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“We played two Tests with a similar team in the Castle Lager Incoming Series and we feel this is the right squad for this specific challenge against New Zealand. The All Blacks are strong all around and they will come to Nelspruit desperate to avenge their series defeat against Ireland and to prove that they remain one of the powerhouses in world rugby, so we believe experience and physicality will be vital in this Test.

“The Springboks and All Blacks have a unique rivalry, and we always bring the best out of one another. They will play a different style of rugby to Wales, and we have been preparing for that, and like many of the northern hemisphere teams, their set pieces are strong, and they have fantastic skills in their backline, so we’ll have to be at our best to register a win.

Springboks (vs New Zealand, Saturday)
15. Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 18 caps, 12 pts (1t, 2c, 1p)
14. Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls) – 1 cap 0 pts
13. Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 28 caps, 25 pts (5t)
12. Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 60 caps, 35 pts (7t)
11. Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 27 caps, 100 pts (20t)
10. Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers) – 62 caps, 633 pts (7t, 86c, 138p, 4d)
9. Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles) – 38 caps, 25pts (5t)
8. Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 13 caps, 0 pts
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 60 caps, 25 pts (5t)
6. Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 65 caps, 35 pts (7t)
5. Lood de Jager (Wild Knights) – 58 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4. Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 100 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 48 caps, 5pts (1t)
2. Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 49 caps, 55 pts (11t)
1. Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92) – 56 caps, 5pts (1t)

Replacements:
16. Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 50 caps, 55 pts (11t)
17. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 61 caps, 5pts (1t)
18. Vincent Koch (Wasps) 34 caps, 0 pts
19. Salmaan Moerat (DHL Stormers) – 1 cap, O pts
20. Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 53 caps, 5pts (1t)
21. Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 21 caps, 5 pts (1t)
22. Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks) – 4 caps, 5 pts (1t)
23. Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 74 caps, 60 pts (12t)

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