The Springbok team preparing for the second Castle Rugby Championship Test against Argentina in Mendoza on Saturday received a huge boost when Bryan Habana was declared fit to start on Wednesday.
Habana, the most experienced member of the squad with 78 Tests for South Africa, injured his left ankle against Argentina in Cape Town last weekend and passed a fitness test on Wednesday morning. That means the backline is unchanged from the one that beat Argentina by 27-6 at DHL Newlands.
The Springboks will start the match with a combined total of 412 Test Caps – 130 of those in the forwards and 282 in the backs.
“Having Bryan is obviously a big boost as we’ve lost a number of players with lots of experience after JP Pietersen, Pierre Spies and Bismarck du Plessis already had to withdraw from our squad,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
Upfront there are two changes and positional shift. Adriaan Strauss replaces the injured Bismarck du Plessis at hooker and takes over the vice-captaincy, while Jacques Potgieter is promoted from the bench to start at blindside flank. Willem Alberts moves to No 8 with Keegan Daniel on the bench.
New alongside Daniel on the bench is Tiaan Liebenberg (hooker), who will make his Springbok Test debut if he gets game time as a replacement.
Two forwards who were doubtful earlier in the week, Andries Bekker (lock) and Marcell Coetzee (flank), both passed fitness tests. Bekker left the field at DHL Newlands with an ankle injury and Coetzee suffered a slight twinge to his groin at training earlier in the week.
“It was a difficult decision between Jacques and Keegan, but we have gone with horses for courses this time,” said Meyer.
“We’re expecting it will be very physical early in the game and it might open up later, which perfectly suits the strongpoints of both Jacques and Keegan.
“The Pumas also mauled quite well in Cape Town and we were not happy with the defence of their mauls, so with the extra weight Jacques brings, we will have to ensure we stop their drives.
“Argentina played a very physical game in Cape Town – as we expected – and they will step it up this weekend in front of their home fans. It will be a very tough Test and we need to be 100% switched on.”
The Springbok team to face Argentina in Mendoza is:
15. Zane Kirchner (Vodacom Blue Bulls) 16 caps
14. Bryan Habana (DHL Western Province) 78 caps
13. Jean de Villiers (captain, DHL Western Province) 76 caps
12. Frans Steyn (The Sharks) 50 caps
11. Lwazi Mvovo (The Sharks) 5 caps
10. Morné Steyn (Vodacom Blue Bulls) 38 caps
9. Francois Hougaard (Vodacom Blue Bulls) 19 caps
8. Willem Alberts (The Sharks) 12 caps
7. Jacques Potgieter (Vodacom Blue Bulls) 2 caps
6. Marcell Coetzee (The Sharks) 4 caps
5. Andries Bekker (DHL Western Province) 25 caps
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Western Province) 4 caps
3. Jannie du Plessis (The Sharks) 34 caps
2. Adriaan Strauss (vice-captain, Toyota FS Cheetahs) 13 caps
1. Tendai Mtawarira (The Sharks) 36 caps
16. Tiaan Liebenberg (DHL Western Province) uncapped
17. Pat Cilliers (MTN Golden Lions) 1 cap
18. Flip van der Merwe (Vodacom Blue Bulls) 15 caps
19. Keegan Daniel (The Sharks) 4 caps
20. Ruan Pienaar (Ulster, N Ireland) 55 caps
21. Pat Lambie (The Sharks) 13 caps
22. JJ Engelbrecht (Vodacom Blue Bulls) 1 cap
Stats and facts:
• South Africa and Argentina have played against each other in 14 Test matches since 1993, with the Springboks winning all 14.
• The 14 consecutive Test victories over Argentina is a record for Springbok rugby. It is one better than the 13 consecutive wins against Wales.
• Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, South Africa’s most capped centre with 61 caps in this position, and Bryan Habana are the only members of the team that have played Test rugby in Argentina before.
• Three members of the starting XV – Adriaan Strauss, Ruan Pienaar and Morné Steyn – were part of the SA Under-21 squad that played in the IRB U21 World Championship in Mendoza in 2005, won by South Africa. All three of them played in the final, won 24-20 at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, also the venue for Saturday’s Test. Strauss replaced the injured Bismarck du Plessis in the U21 squad in 2005.
• Morné Steyn holds the Springbok record for most career tries in Tests as a flyhalf – 7. He is also the Springbok record holder for most career points (210) and penalty goals (51) in this tournament and, together with André Pretorius, the overall record holder for most career drop goals in the tournament – 4. (The record of 210 career points is currently shared with Percy Montgomery).
• Furthermore, Morné Steyn will play in his 28th consecutive Test. He needs 3 penalty goals to reach 100 career penalty goals.
• The referee, Steve Walsh from Australia, has been in charge of 12 Springbok Tests before. South Africa won nine of those tests and lost one. Two Tests were drawn.