South Africa’s Player of the Year in 2010, Gurthrö Steenkamp, will make his 50th Test appearance for the Springboks when they take on Wales at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday (kick-off 17h00).
Steenkamp has been included in the starting line-up for the first Welsh Test in one of six changes to the match-day squad from the team which comprehensively beat the World XV last weekend in Cape Town, four of which are positional shifts.
Cornal Hendricks, who shone for the Springboks last weekend at DHL Newlands, will make his Test debut on Saturday, while his provincial team mate from the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, the uncapped Lood de Jager, has been selected on the bench.
The two changes in the backline are at inside centre, where Jan Serfontein will earn his first Test start for South Africa, and scrumhalf, where Fourie du Preez will start with Ruan Pienaar on the bench alongside Tendai Mtawarira, who has swapped places with Steenkamp.
The 32-year-old Steenkamp, who made his international debut on 27 November 2004 against Scotland in Edinburgh, will become the 29th Springbok to reach 50 Test caps. He will also become the sixth prop to achieve this feat behind Os du Randt, CJ van der Linde, Ollie le Roux, Jannie du Plessis and Mtawarira.
“This is a wonderful achievement for Gurthrö and I’m very proud of him,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“He has been playing Test rugby for a decade and is vastly experienced at all levels of the game. Gurthrö always gives everything he has for the Springbok jersey and it’s always good to see commitment and hard work pay off.”
Meyer was also very happy for Hendricks and De Jager, who have been two of the Toyota Cheetahs’ stars this season.
“To make one’s Test debut is a proud moment in any player’s career. Cornal and Lood fully deserve to be in the squad this weekend and I know they will do well,” said Meyer.
“Cornal performed exceptionally well in his first start for South Africa against the World XV last weekend and really made the most of his opportunity.
“Lood has everything expected from a modern lock – not only is he big and powerful, but he likes the physical stuff and is very skilful as well.
“I also planned on giving Jan an opportunity this month. He was first selected when he was 20 last year and it’s always been our plan to groom him for a long Springbok career. He’s been playing well for the Vodacom Bulls lately and his first start for the Springboks is well-deserved after making nine appearances from the bench in 2013.
“Jan and JP Pietersen will face a very experienced midfield combination on Saturday, but they have played against the best in Vodacom Super Rugby and know what is expected of them.”
Meyer said he is expecting a stern challenge from Wales on Saturday.
“They started their tour well with a good win in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday evening and they are always fired up and ready,” said the Springbok coach.
“Wales have an experienced coaching team and they were the Six Nations champions in 2012 and 2013, as well as the back-bone of the British & Irish Lions team which beat Australia last year, so this will be a massive challenge in our first Test of the season.
“Although we got our season off to a good start against the World XV last weekend, there were a few areas of the game we were not satisfied with and which we worked hard on this week. We will have to be at our best on Saturday and we want to make our supporters proud.”
Victor Matfield, who will captain the Springboks for the 18th time in a Test, will equal John Smit’s South African record of 111 Tests in the Green and Gold.
Four players who are part of the squad were not considered for selection because of illness and injury. They are Juan de Jongh (chest infection), Siya Kolisi (flu), Oupa Mohoje (flu) and Marnitz Boshoff (ankle).
The Springbok team to face Wales in Durban is:
15. Willie le Roux 12 caps 20 points
14. Cornal Hendricks 0 caps 0 points
13. JP Pietersen 51 caps 80 points
12. Jan Serfontein 9 caps 5 points
11. Bryan Habana 95 caps 265 points
10. Morné Steyn 54 caps 636 points
9. Fourie du Preez (vice-captain) 67 caps, 75 points
8. Duane Vermeulen 16 caps 5 points
7. Willem Alberts 30 caps 35 points
6. Francois Louw 28 caps 25 points
5. Victor Matfield (captain) 110 caps 35 points
4. Bakkies Botha 78 caps 35 points
3. Jannie du Plessis 51 caps 5 points
2. Bismarck du Plessis (vice-captain) 57 caps 45 points
1. Gurthrö Steenkamp 49 caps 30 points
16. Schalk Brits 5 caps 0 points
17. Tendai Mtawarira 53 caps 10 points
18. Coenie Oosthuizen 14 caps 10 points
19. Lood de Jager 0 caps 0 points
20. Schalk Burger 68 caps 65 points
21. Ruan Pienaar 74 caps 130 points
22. Johan Goosen 4 caps 8 points
23. Lwazi Mvovo 7 caps 5 points
Stats and facts:
•The Springbok starting team boasts a total of 707 Test caps (288 in the backline and 419 in the forwards), while there are a further 225 caps worth of experience on the bench.
•South Africa and Wales have played each other 27 times since 1906, with the Springboks winning 25 Tests, losing once and one was drawn. The Springboks have scored 739 points and 92 tries and conceded 382 points and 32 tries for an average score of 27-14.
•South Africa and Wales last met on 9 November, 2013 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. The Springboks beat Wales 24-15 thanks to three tries from Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis and Fourie du Preez against five penalties by Leigh Halfpenny.
•Victor Matfield will equal John Smit’s record of 111 Tests for South Africa in what will be his 11th Test against Wales, one more than the previous record 10 appearances against the Welsh, held jointly between him and Smit.
•Bryan Habana will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok wing, with 94 Tests in this position and if he scores a try, will extend his record of 53 Test tries for South Africa.
•Morné Steyn will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok flyhalf, with 52 Tests in this position. If he scores a try, he will also extend his record of eight Test tries as a flyhalf for South Africa.
•If he scores a try, Bismarck du Plessis will extend his record of nine test tries for South Africa as a hooker. Bismarck and his brother Jannie will also be playing together in their 32nd Test, a Springbok record for brothers.
•Schalk Burger will extend his record as the most capped Springbok flank, with 66 Tests in this position. He also shares the record with Juan Smith for the most Test tries as a flank (11).
•Gurthrö Steenkamp will be playing in his 50th Test for the Springboks. He will be the 29th Springbok in history to achieve this feat. If he scores a try, he will extend his own record of six tries as a prop for South Africa.
•Cornal Hendricks is the only new Springbok in the starting team. He will be Springbok No. 855. If he goes on, Lood de Jager will become Springbok No. 856.
•Thirteen of the players were involved in the last Test in 2013 (against France). JP Pietersen played on the wing while Gurthro Steenkamp and Bakkies went on as substitutes. Coenie Oosthuizen played tighthead prop while Ruan Pienaar started at scrumhalf.
•The referee is Romain Poite of France. This will be his fourth Test involving South Africa. The Springboks have won two and lost one of these encounters. His last game was the Test against New Zealand on 14 September, 2013 at Eden Park in Auckland, when the Boks lost by 29-15 in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
Springbok Test match records at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban:
o Most points – 31 (1t, 1c, 8p) by Morné Steyn on 1 August, 2009 against New Zealand.
o Most tries – five by Stefan Terblanche on 19 June, 1999 against Italy.
o Most conversions – eight by Gaffie du Toit on 19 June, 1999 against Italy.
o Most penalty goals – eight by Morné Steyn on 1 August, 2009 against New Zealand.
o Most drop goals – three by Naas Botha on 3 May, 1980 against South America and also three on 6 June, 1981 against Ireland.