The Springboks have gone for continuity in selection in their team to face Ireland on Saturday in the opening Test of the Castle Outgoing Tour at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
There were only three changes to the team that started in the Springboks’ last Test, against New Zealand in Soweto last month. All three were forced because of injury.
The 22-year-old Pat Lambie’s starts at flyhalf in place of the injured Johan Goosen while JP Pietersen returns at right wing and Juandré Kruger takes over at lock. The latter pair replace Bryan Habana and Andries Bekker respectively, who were both ruled out of the tour because of injury.
“I’m excited to see what Pat can bring to the team,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“He played very well in the last few weeks of the Absa Currie Cup and hopefully he can bring that momentum with him on Saturday.
“It’s also good to have JP back. He’s had a great season and will want to finish the season on a high. At lock, there has been strong competition for the No 5 jersey all season and now Juandré gets an opportunity again.”
For the first time, the Springboks have named an eight-man replacement bench, in line with the new laws that determine a full front row of two specialist props and a hooker have to be selected.
Returning to Springbok duty for the first time since 2008 is Schalk Brits, who will start on the bench next to CJ van der Linde and Pat Cilliers. Should Brits make an appearance, it will be his first Test for South Africa since appearing against Australia four seasons ago, while Van der Linde has not appeared for the team since the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
“Schalk is an explosive player who can bring something special off the bench,” said Meyer. “CJ is very experienced and knows the conditions here quite well, as he played for Leinster for two seasons.”
Meyer said the match would be a major Test in trying conditions for his young team. A temperature of around five degrees is forecast for Saturday afternoon, while winds and a 25% chance of showers are also predicted.
“I’ve said from the outset that I’d like to see which of the players can handle the Northern Hemisphere conditions on this tour, as it will be the same for the Rugby World Cup in 2015,” said Meyer.
“We’ll be facing an Ireland team that is never an easy opponent in Dublin. The Springboks have only won one of their last four Tests here and since they lost at Aviva Stadium against South Africa in November 2010, they have recorded a number of good victories at their home ground.
“They are a quality and well-balanced side with good experienced players. We’ve seen in our last number of Tests against Ireland how dangerous they can be, but we’d rather focus on our own game and would like to start this tour on a positive note.”
Furthermore, Meyer confirmed on Wednesday that Leinster prop Heinke van der Merwe has been called up to the Springbok squad for the duration of the tour. He played in his only Test for South Africa against Wales in November 2007, and he toured with the Springboks at the end of the 2009 season.
Gurthrö Steenkamp, who joined the squad on Tuesday evening, is struggling with a light niggle. Van der Merwe’s call-up provides extra cover at loosehead prop.
“Heinke has played for South Africa before and is based in Dublin, making it easy for him to join the squad. I’ve been following his career and he has been playing well for Leinster, who are the Heineken Cup champions,” said Meyer.
The Springbok team to face Ireland in Dublin is:
15. Zane Kirchner (Vodacom Blue Bulls) 21caps
14. JP Pietersen (The Sharks) 45 caps
13. Jaco Taute (MTN Golden Lions) 2 caps
12.Jean de Villiers (captain) DHL Western Province 81 caps
11. Francois Hougaard (Vodacom Blue Bulls) 24 caps
10. Pat Lambie (The Sharks) 17 caps
9. Ruan Pienaar (Ulster, N-Ireland) 60 caps
8. Duane Vermeulen (DHL Western Province) 4 caps
7. Willem Alberts (The Sharks) 17 caps
6. Francois Louw (Bath, England) 14 caps
5. Juandré Kruger (Vodacom Blue Bulls) 5 caps
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Western Province) 8 caps
3. Jannie du Plessis (The Sharks) 39 caps
2. Adriaan Strauss (vice-captain, Toyota FS Cheetahs) 18 caps
1. Tendai Mtawarira (The Sharks) 41 caps
16. Schalk Brits (Saracens, England) 3 caps
17. CJ van der Linde (MTN Golden Lions) 73 caps
18. Pat Cilliers (DHL Western Province) 4 caps
19. Flip van der Merwe (Vodacom Blue Bulls) 20 caps
20. Marcell Coetzee (The Sharks) 9 caps
21. Morné Steyn (Vodacom Blue Bulls) 41 caps
22. Juan de Jongh (DHL Western Province) 12 caps
23. Lwazi Mvovo (The Sharks) 7 caps
Stats and facts:
•Saturday’s Test will be the 21st between South Africa and Ireland. In the 20 Tests they have played against each other since 1906, South Africa have won 15, lost 4 and one match was drawn (in 1970). Points for: 401; Points against: 236; average score: 20-12.
•South Africa and Ireland last met on 6 November 2010 at Aviva Stadium, which was Ireland’s first Test match at the venue. South Africa won by 23-21.
•Morné Steyn is the most capped Springbok flyhalf, with 40 Tests. He also holds the record for the most career tries in Tests as a flyhalf, with seven.
•Morné needs 14 points to reach 500 career points in Tests for the Springboks. He also needs two drop goals to equal Naas Botha’s career record of three drop goals against Ireland and 11 points to equal Percy Montgomery’s career record of 32 points in Tests against Ireland in Dublin.
•Jean de Villiers will extend his record as the most capped Springbok centre – he is currently on 66 Tests in this position. He will captain the Springboks for the 10th time on Saturday.
•Should CJ van der Linde be used as a substitute, he will join Ruan Pienaar on 35 Tests as a replacement, the second most by a Springbok. CJ will then also become the most capped Springbok against Ireland in his seventh cap against this country.
•Wayne Barnes of England is the referee. In the seven Tests he’s refereed involving South Africa, the Springboks have won four and lost three.
•Springbok Test match records in Dublin against Ireland.
o Most points – 12 by Percy Montgomery (3c, 2p) in 1998 and again (4p) in 2004.
o Most tries – three each by Jan Stegmann and Boetie McHardy at Lansdowne Road in 1912.
o Most conversions – three each by Gerhard Morkel in 1912 and by Percy Montgomery in 1998.
o Most penalty goals – four by Percy Montgomery in 2004.
o Most drop goals – one each by Hansie Brewis in 1951 and by Morné Steyn in 2009.