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South Africa name two debutants vs Wales as Koch hits half-century

By Jon Newcombe
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Wing Edwill van der Merwe and fly-half Jordan Hendrikse will make their Test debuts when South Africa tackle Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.


But Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus has also selected several Rugby World Cup winners, with captain Pieter-Steph du Toit, lock Eben Etzebeth and scrum-half Faf de Klerk among those starting, while Vincent Koch wins his 50th cap at tight-head.

South Africa are without players from the Bulls due to their appearance in the United Rugby Championship final against Glasgow in Pretoria on Saturday, while star backs Cheslin Kolbe and Lukhanyo Am are absent because of injuries.

Erasmus, though, is still able to name a powerful starting line-up for their first game back since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in November, as the Springboks target a sixth victory in the last seven Tests against Wales.

“We knew what challenges we would face in selecting the squad for this training camp and the Wales Test, but as a team we turned it into a fantastic opportunity to blood a few youngsters and expose them to the national set-up,” Erasmus said.

“Building squad depth is one of our key pillars as a team, and this camp and Test match, as well as the one coming up against Portugal in Bloemfontein, will allow us to tick that box with an eye on the next few years.”

Team: A Fassi; E Van der Merwe, J Kriel, A Esterhuizen, M Mapimpi; J Hendrikse, F De Klerk; O Nche, M Marx, V Koch, E Etzebeth, F Mostert, K Smith, P-S du Toit (capt), E Roos.


Replacements: B Mbonambi, N Mchunu, F Malherbe, S Moerat, B-J Dixon, G Williams, S Feinberg-Mngomezulu, D De Allende.

In this episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV


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finn 31 days ago

not surprising that this selection skews so heavily towards established talent!

bodes well for SA being v competitive in the Ireland series and the RC

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finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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