Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira will play in his 50th Test for the Springboks when they take on New Zealand at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday, in the final round of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
The 28-year-old Mtawarira, who made his Test debut on 14 June 2008 against Wales in Pretoria, will become the 27th Springbok to reach 50 Test caps, following hot on the heels of his fellow front rankers, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, as well as Morné Steyn.
Mtawarira will also become the fifth prop to achieve this feat behind Os du Randt, CJ van der Linde, Ollie le Roux and Jannie du Plessis.
“What a wonderful achievement for Beast,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“He is someone who doesn’t speak a lot, but you know he always gives everything he has for the Springbok jersey. It’s always good to see hard work and dedication pay off like this.”
There are two changes to the Springbok team that beat Australia by 28-8 in Cape Town last weekend, as well as one possible change.
Upfront, Bismarck du Plessis rotates with Adriaan Strauss at hooker, while Juandré Kruger comes in at lock for Flip van der Merwe. The uncapped Franco van der Merwe has been selected on the bench.
At the back, JJ Engelbrecht is bracketed at outside centre with Jan Serfontein, while Juan de Jongh will come onto the bench if needed.
“We will give JJ all the time he needs to fully recover from his quad muscle injury, but if he can’t make it, Jan will start with Juan on the bench,” explained Meyer.
“Juandré will slot in without any difficulty as he’s been part of the squad since day one and I’m very pleased for Franco, who has been training with us for more than a year already.
“Franco’s attitude since day one has been fantastic, he’s waited patiently and always stayed positive, which is what we as a team stand for. On Saturday, he could make his debut against New Zealand in front of his home crowd at Ellis Park on Saturday.”
The Springbok team to face New Zealand in Johannesburg is:
15. Zane Kirchner 27 caps 25 points
14. Willie le Roux 8 caps 10 points
13. JJ Engelbrecht / Jan Serfontein 9 caps / 8 caps 20 points / 5 points
12. Jean de Villiers (captain) 92 caps 115 points
11. Bryan Habana 91 caps 255 points
10. Morné Steyn 50 caps 611 points
9. Fourie du Preez 64 caps 70 points
8. Duane Vermeulen 12 caps 5 points
7. Willem Alberts 26 caps 30 points
6. Francois Louw 24 caps 25 points
5. Juandré Kruger 16 caps 0 points
4. Eben Etzebeth 19 caps 0 points
3. Jannie du Plessis 50 caps 5 points
2. Bismarck du Plessis 53 caps 40 points
1. Tendai Mtawarira 49 caps 10 points
16. Adriaan Strauss 29 caps 25 points
17. Gurthrö Steenkamp 45 caps 30 points
18. Coenie Oosthuizen 10 caps 5 points
19. Franco van der Merwe 0 caps 0 points
20. Siya Kolisi 7 caps 0 points
21. Ruan Pienaar 70 caps 130 points
22. Pat Lambie 28 caps 55 points
23. Jan Serfontein / Juan de Jongh 8 caps/ 14 caps 5 points/ 20 points
Stats and facts:
•Should JJ Engelbrecht be cleared to play, the Springbok starting team boasts a total of 590 Test caps (341 in the backline and 249 in the forwards), while there are a further 197 caps worth of experience on the bench.
•South Africa and New Zealand have played each other 86 times since 1921, with the Springboks winning 34 Tests, losing 49 and three was drawn. The Springboks have scored 1,328 points and 129 tries and conceded 1,641 points and 172 tries for an average score of 15-19.
•Jean de Villiers will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok centre, with 77 Tests in this position. He will also be playing in his 21st Test against New Zealand, just three short of Victor Matfield’s record of 24.
•Bryan Habana will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok wing, with 90 Tests in this position and if he scores a try, will extend his record of 51 Test tries for South Africa. He also just needs one try to equal the Rugby Championship record of Christian Cullen (New Zealand) who scored 16 tries in his Rugby Championship career.
•Morné Steyn will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok flyhalf, with 49 Tests in this position. If he scores a try, he will also extend his record of seven Test tries as a flyhalf for South Africa. He will also extend his Springbok career record of 117 points against New Zealand in Tests.
•Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis will extend their SA record of playing together in 30 Tests for South Africa. If he scores a try Bismarck will also extend his own record of eight test tries for South Africa as a hooker.
•If he goes on and scores a try, Gurthrö Steenkamp will extend his own record of six tries as a prop for South Africa.
•If he goes on Franco van der Merwe will become Springbok No. 846.
•The referee is Nigel Owens of Wales. This will be his 10th Test involving South Africa. The Springboks have won six and lost three of these encounters.
His last game was the test against England on 24 November 2012 at Twickenham in London on the Boks’ end-of-year tour, where South Africa beat England by 16-15.
Springbok Test match records at Ellis Park in Johannesburg:
•Most points – 28 (3t, 5c, 1p) by Gavin Johnson on 13 April 1995 against Samoa.
•Most tries – four by Chester Williams on 10 June 1995 against Samoa and by Jongi Nokwe against on 30 August 2008 against Australia.
•Most conversions – nine by Butch James on 9 August 2008 against Argentina
•Most penalty goals – six by Percy Montgomery on 16 June 2001 against France and by Louis Koen on 14 June 2003 against Scotland.
•Most drop goals – two by Joel Stransky on 27 June 1995 against New Zealand and by Jannie de Beer on 19 July 1997 against New Zealand.
•The Springboks and New Zealand have played 11 times at Ellis Park since 1928 with the Boks winning eight and losing three (6-7 in 1928; 24-27 in 1992 and 32-35 in 1997).
The Boks have scored 255 points (26 tries) against 206 points (19 tries) with an average of 23-19.
The last game between the two countries was in 2004, with the Boks winning 40-26, a game in which Marius Joubert scored a hat-trick and the Boks outscored the Kiwis by 5 tries to two.