Springboks go with Marx at hooker, de Klerk at No 9
NELSPRUIT, South Africa (AP) — Malcolm Marx will start as South Africa’s hooker in place of Bongi Mbonambi and Faf de Klerk has been recalled at scrumhalf for the first of two Rugby Championship home tests against New Zealand.
The only other change to the Springboks team that clinched the series against Wales last month was on the right wing where Kurt-Lee Arendse was selected in Tuesday’s team announcement for his second test in place of Cheslin Kolbe, who has a broken jaw.
South Africa continued with Trevor Nyakane at loosehead prop and he joins Marx and Frans Malherbe in the front row. Marx gets to start in his 50th test.
Second-row regulars Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager are together again.
Captain Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit are the flankers and Jasper Wiese is at No. 8 with veteran Duane Vermeulen still not fully recovered from the injury that kept him out the Wales series.
De Klerk and flyhalf Handré Pollard will direct a backline where newcomer Arendse is the only player who wasn’t part of South Africa’s Rugby World Cup-winning squad in 2019.
The Springboks also put six forwards on the bench; Mbonambi, props Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch, lock Salmaan Moerat and utilities Franco Mostert and Kwagga Smith. New scrumhalf Jaden Hendricks and Willie le Roux are the two reserve backs.
“We believe experience and physicality will be vital in this test,” coach Jacques Nienaber said.
De Klerk’s return will likely bolster South Africa’s tactical kicking game on Saturday at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, where the Boks have played just three tests, the last in 2016. New Zealand has never played a test at Mbombela.
Nienaber spoke with caution when addressing the All Blacks’ poor recent form, which has seen them lose four of their last five tests, including a shock series defeat at home by Ireland last month.
New Zealand fired assistant coaches John Plumtree and Brad Mooar following the Ireland upset. Coach Ian Foster and captain Sam Cane are under grinding pressure ahead of the trip to South Africa to play back-to-back tests against their fiercest rival in Nelspruit and Johannesburg.
But Nienaber warned of the All Blacks’ ability to bounce back.
“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,” Nienaber said. “New Zealand have always tested us to the limit, and it will be no different in the next two weeks.”
South Africa: Damian Willemse, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Jasper Wiese, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane. Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Salmaan Moerat, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Jaden Hendrikse, Willie le Roux.
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