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Springboks explain why Mostert is starting ahead of two-try Smith

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The Springboks have explained why sub lock Franco Mostert has been chosen ahead of two-try sub back-rower Kwagga Smith as next Saturday’s replacement for Pieter-Steph du Toit, the injured openside. A niggle has ruled out the first-choice No7 for the rematch versus the Wallabies in Sydney but that wasn’t enough to prise open a starting berth for Smith, who has started on just 13 occasions in his 24-game Test career.

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Smith was thrown into the second-half fray last weekend in Adelaide for Duane Vermeulen with the Springboks all at sea and his two-try effort helped to reduce the margin and see his team only beaten by 25-17.

That cameo, though, wasn’t enough to lever him into the No7 jersey in place of the absent du Toit, head coach Jacques Vermeulen preferring instead to go with Mostert as the starting openside. That is a position he occupied on four occasions last year when du Toit was also injured and Mostert also came on in Adelaide as the direct replacement for du Toit after Smith had already been introduced.

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Explained the decision to start Mostert and keep Smith on the bench, Nienaber said: “Pieter-Steph has got a niggle, that is why he is not up for selection this weekend and on the past weekend, I thought Franco Mostert had a good game at seven, giving us a nice lineout option there as well.

“For us, it was just a straight swap. Yes, Kwagga can play there and he was very good when he came on and brought a lot of energy, not just the fact that he scored two tries.

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“He brought a lot of energy into the squad, as Kwagga always does. I agree with you, he probably could have started but we think in terms of the tactics that we want to employ this weekend, Franco Mostert is a benefit for us starting and Kwagga injecting that energy that he does off the bench.”

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Nienaber refused to go into finer detail regarding the injuries that have wounded the Springboks. Handre Pollard, Lukhanyo Am and du Toit were all unavailable with knee issues and Elton Jantjies also missed out with an injured hand.

“In terms of the injuries, we will probably have more clarity on the severity by tomorrow [Wednesday],” he claimed about a situation that contributed to eight changes being made to the starting XV.

It includes the switching of full-back Damian Willemse to fly-half in the absence of Pollard. “Damian has played for us at fly-half this year, the first Wales Test match in Pretoria. He played the second half at ten so we are quite looking forward to seeing him there again,” reassured Nienaber.

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