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Vermeulen back as Springboks make five team changes for All Blacks

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

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Jacques Nienaber has named a Springboks team showing five changes for next Saturday’s Rugby Championship rematch with the All Blacks in Johannesburg. The head coach was always going to have to make two of those alterations as round one try scorer Kurt-Lee Arendse is suspended until next month following his late-game red card in Mbombela last Saturday while Faf de Klerk has been sidelined by his first-minute knockout in that 26-10 victory.

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Jesse Kriel and Jaden Hendrikse are the two players who come to fill those vacancies, but the Springboks have opted to make three other team changes – all in the pack – as they look to notch up a second successive 2022 Championship over the wounded All Blacks.

These three rotational switches include No8 Duane Vermeulen returning after recovering from surgery on his knee. He takes over from the benched Jasper Wiese. Replacement Bongi Mbonambi slots back in at hooker after Malcolm Marx earned a start last week to celebrate his 50th Test cap, and Ox Nche takes over from Trevor Nyakane at loosehead prop.

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While Mbonambi and Marx switch roles between the starting Springboks team and replacements bench, the inclusion of Vermeulen sees Wiese take the role of an impact player in place of lock Salmaan Moerat in another six forwards/two backs bench split. Herschel Jantjies fills the void left by Hendrikse’s promotion to the starting team.

“We made a few changes to the team, but Duane, Jesse and Herschel are all experienced players who know our systems well and have been stalwarts for the Boks,” said Nienaber. “Ox has also shown his ability to make his presence felt in the front row, so he is back in the mix.

“Duane has a massive presence on the field and there is no bigger game for him to make his comeback from injury than facing the All Blacks. He is an enforcer on attack and defence and we know he will give everything against a physical All Blacks team that is desperate to bounce back strongly from a challenging run of results. Jasper is also a warrior, and we know that he will have an equally strong presence when he takes the field.

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“Jesse has played over 50 Tests, and he has been waiting in the wings for his chance. He’s played wing for us before, so we know what he can bring to the game, and we are also excited to welcome back Herschel, who has played an immense role to help prepare the playing squad for the last two Tests.”

Despite the All Blacks suffering their second biggest defeat yet against the Springboks last weekend (16 points, one less than their biggest ever defeat of 17 points), Nienaber expects his Springboks team to face a massive onslaught from the visitors. “New Zealand are similar to the Springboks in the sense that they do not give up,” he said.

“They fought until the end against us at the Mbombela Stadium last week and we expect nothing less from them on Saturday. They have quality players within their ranks and given the rich history between the sides in Johannesburg and their desperation to turn things around after a few disappointing results, we know we are in for a massive challenge this weekend.

“Our focus is on improving our game and ensuring that we build on our form from last week. We had an honest assessment of our performance last week and while there were several positives there are areas that we need to make a step up in. It will be vital to get that right before we travel to Australia and Argentina for the away leg of the tournament.”

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Springboks (vs All Blacks, Saturday)
15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 19 caps, 12 pts (1t, 2c, 1p)
14 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) – 52 caps, 60 pts (12t)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 29 caps, 25 pts (5t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 61 caps, 35 pts (7t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 28 caps, 100 pts (20t)
10 – Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers) – 63 caps, 649 pts (7t, 88c, 141p, 5d)
9 – Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks) – 5 caps, 5 pts (1t)
8 – Duane Vermeulen (Ulster) – 61 caps, 15 pts (3t)
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 61 caps, 25 pts (5t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 66 caps, 35 pts (7t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Wild Knights) – 59 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 101 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 49 caps, 5pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 51 caps, 55 pts (11t)
1 – Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks) – 10 caps, 0pts

Replacements:
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 50 caps, 55 pts (11t)
17 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 62 caps, 5pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Wasps) 35 caps, 0 pts
19 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 54 caps, 5pts (1t)
20 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 14 caps, 0 pts
21 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 22 caps, 5 pts (1t)
22 – Hershel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 22 caps, 25 pts (5t)
23 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 75 caps, 65 pts (13t)

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