Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has made 10 changes to the match-23 for Saturday’s Test against France in Paris, which include starts for experienced No 8 Duane Vermeulen and flyhalf Handré Pollard.
Coetzee also handed a first Test start to prop Wilco Louw, while Francois Venter has been selected at inside centre. The Springbok coach also made several positional changes to the match day squad that lost to Ireland in Dublin last weekend.
Upfront, Louw is set to make his starting debut in place of Coenie Oosthuizen, who suffered a serious knee injury in Dublin. And with Pieter-Steph du Toit ruled out with concussion, Vermeulen starts at No 8 in a revamped loose trio combination which sees Francois Louw moving to flank where he will join Siya Kolisi on the side of the scrum.
In the backline, Pollard is in line to make his first start for South Africa since the 2015 Rugby World Cup bronze medal playoff match against Argentina in London, in place of Elton Jantjies. Venter, who made his Test debut in 2016, comes in at No 12 for Damian de Allende.
Jantjies and De Allende are included amongst the replacements, where they will be joined by prop forward Trevor Nyakane and uncapped loose forward Dan du Preez.
Coetzee said Vermeulen brings a lot of experience to the team: “Duane is very experienced and fits in well with our plan for Saturday. He is a great lineout and ball-carrying option to fill the void left by Pieter-Steph, while his leadership and experience will offer great support to Eben Etzebeth.
“His presence and knowledge of the French is also a huge benefit for us. Duane has made good contributions since joining us at the beginning of the week, and I am looking forward to his combination with Siya and Francois,” said Coetzee.
Pollard’s playing opportunities over the past two years has been halted by a series of injuries.
“Handré has trained exceptionally hard the past few months and he is looking forward to the opportunity to once more start in the Springbok jersey,” said Coetzee.
“Elton has started in all 10 Tests so far this season and has made good contributions and I am pleased with his development. However, both flyhalves need playing time to continuously work on their game management in different conditions.”
Louw made a good impression last week in what was only his second Test, and this week he will make his starting debut in Paris.
“Wilco did very well last Saturday and gained valuable experience when he came on as an early replacement for Coenie. He deserves the opportunity to start against a strong French pack of forwards,” said Coetzee.
“Francois is also rewarded for continued good performances. He is a leader is his own right with an exceptional high work rate.”
According to Coetzee, the Springboks will be looking for an improved performance in all areas on Saturday after the disappointing performance in Dublin: “We have to fight back and play much better after our poor performance against Ireland.
“France is a much changed and improved side and will certainly pose a different challenge this time. They have a new half back combination and a strong ball carrying midfield, so they’re definitely not the same team we faced in June in South Africa,” said Coetzee, who furthermore believes the two big focal points for Saturday will be the battle for set piece dominance and gain line advantage.
“We have to be more accurate at the breakdown, especially with our reaction speed and basic fundamentals. Discipline, as well as our decision-making in tackle situations, are of paramount importance.
“We understand the importance of this match and we have to be at our best in terms of tactics, physicality and mental preparation, in order to confront and match France in front of their passionate supporters,” explained Coetzee.
The Springbok team to face France in Paris on Saturday:
15. Andries Coetzee, Emirates Lions – 10 caps, 0 points
14. Dillyn Leyds, DHL Stormers – 6 caps, 0 points
13. Jesse Kriel, Vodacom Bulls – 26 caps, 30 points (6 tries)
12. Francois Venter, Toyota Cheetahs – 4 caps, 0 points
11. Courtnall Skosan, Emirates Lions – 10 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
10. Handré Pollard, Vodacom Bulls – 23 caps, 190 points (2 tries, 30 conversions, 37 penalties, 3 drop goals)
9. Ross Cronje, Emirates Lions – 7 caps, 10 points (1 tries)
8. Duane Vermeulen, Toulon (France) – 37 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
7. Siya Kolisi, DHL Stormers – 26 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
6. Francois Louw, Bath (England) – 55 caps, 40 points (8 tries)
5. Lood de Jager, Vodacom Bulls – 33 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
4. Eben Etzebeth (captain), DHL Stormers – 64 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
3. Wilco Louw, DHL Stormers – 2 caps, 0 points
2. Malcolm Marx, Emirates Lions – 12 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
1. Tendai Mtawarira, Cell C Sharks – 96 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
16. Bongi Mbonambi, DHL Stormers – 12 caps, 0 points
17. Steven Kitshoff, DHL Stormers – 20 caps, 0 points
18. Trevor Nyakane, Vodacom Bulls – 34 caps, 5 points (1 try)
19. Franco Mostert, Emirates Lions/Ricoh Black Rams (Jap) – 16 caps, 0 points
20. Dan du Preez, Cell C Sharks – 0 caps, 0 points
21. Rudy Paige, Vodacom Bulls – 12 caps, 5 points (1 try)
22. Elton Jantjies, Emirates Lions/NTT Shining Arcs (Japan) – 21 caps, 198 points (2 tries, 37 conversions, 38 penalties)
23. Damian de Allende, DHL Stormers – 28 caps, 15 points (3 tries)