DHL Western Province No 8 Duane Vermeulen will make his Springbok debut against Australia in Perth on Saturday, in South Africa’s third Test in The Castle Rugby Championship for 2012.
In addition, Toyota Free State Cheetahs flyhalf Johan Goosen has been selected on the bench and will earn his first Springbok cap if he makes an appearance at Paterson’s Stadium.
Adriaan Strauss has been included at hooker after coming through a first set of fitness tests, but he will be given until Friday to fully shake off his knee injury.
Vermeulen’s inclusion at the back of the scrum is one of five changes from the starting team that played Argentina in Mendoza recently. Two of these changes are positional, with Francois Hougaard moving from scrumhalf to left wing and Willem Alberts shifting from No 8 to flank.
Apart from Vermeulen, there is a recall for lock Juandré Kruger, while Ruan Pienaar will start his first Test of 2012 at scrumhalf. This has resulted in two further changes to the bench – Francois Louw has been included in the match 22 for the first time this season, while Lwazi Mvovo is also among the replacements.
“We’ve decided to put Duane straight into the starting team because he is a classic No 8, a position we’ve lacked in since Pierre Spies got injured and Ryan Kankowski moved to Japan,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer in Perth on Wednesday.
“I’ve always admired the way Duane plays rugby and he’s fitted in very well the past week. He would’ve been a Springbok years ago if it had not been for injuries and it’s great to finally see him selected.
“The same goes for Johan, who in my mind can become one of the great flyhalves in world rugby. I’ve been very impressed with his work ethic and attitude since he joined the squad on Thursday in Johannesburg and we will keep on managing him carefully over the next few weeks.”
Commenting on the other changes to the team, Meyer said: “Ruan brings a more tactical approach to scrumhalf, while I’ve always been impressed with Francois at wing.
“At lock we’ve decided to go for Juandré as he plays more to the ball. Juandré and Eben played well as a combination in the June Tests against England. And by including Francois on the bench, we have a specialist opensider, but also a versatile loose forward that brings a bit more balance to our back row mix.”
The Springbok team boasts a total of 451 Test caps: 339 of those are in the backline, while the forwards have 112 caps – one more than the total of Springbok caps accumulated by former captain John Smit in his career.
The Springbok team to face Australia in Perth is: 15. Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morné Steyn, 9, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Bench: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Johan Goosen, 21 Patrick Lambie, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.
Stats and facts:
• Saturday’s Test will be the 75th international between South Africa and Australia. The Springboks have won 41, lost 32 and one ended in a draw.
• South Africa and Australia last met in the 2011 RWC Quarter Final which was won by Australia 11-9.
• The Springboks have lost their last four Tests against Australia with their last win in August 2010 in Pretoria. Only once before (1999-2000) have South Africa lost four consecutive Tests against the Wallabies.
• The two teams have played 36 Tests against each other in the Tri-Nations / The Castle Rugby Championship. South Africa won 17, lost 18 with one match drawn. Points for: 777; Points against: 839; Tries for: 72; Tries against: 84; Average score: 22-23.
• The Springboks have played six Test matches against Australia at this venue. They have won three, lost two with a drawn match in 2001. Their last win in Australia was in August 2009 in Perth.
• With 39 Test caps, Morné Steyn is the most capped Springbok flyhalf. He has also scored the most career tries in Tests as a flyhalf – 7.
• Morné is also the Springbok record holder for the most career points in this tournament – 221; the most career penalty goals by a Springbok in the tournament – 54; and the most career drop goals against Australia – 3.
• Morné Steyn will play in his 28th consecutive and 40th overall Test. He needs 25 points to reach 500 test points for South Africa.
• Steyn needs two points to become only the second Springbok to score 100 points in Tests against Australia, after Percy Montgomery (with a total of 140 points against the Wallabies).
• Morné needs three conversions to equal Percy Montgomery’s record of 13 career conversions against Australia and one drop goal to become the sole record holder for most career drop goals in the tournament. Currently he shares the record of four career drop goals with André Pretorius.
• Bryan Habana, the most capped Springbok wing with 78 Test caps in this position, is the record holder for the most tries in Tests by a Springbok – 41. He will play his 80th Test and is the most experienced member of the squad.
• Bryan needs one try to equal Jaque Fourie’s career record of nine tries in the tournament and two tries – something he’s achieved twice before in Perth – to equal Breyton Paulse’s career record of seven tries against Australia.
• Jean de Villiers, with 62 Test appearances in the midfield, is the most capped Springbok centre.
• Frans Steyn needs one drop goal to equal Morné Steyn’s career record of three drop goals against Australia.
• The referee is Nigel Owens of Wales – he has refereed in seven Tests involving South Africa, with the Springboks winning five of those and losing two.