South Africa have made two changes to the starting team beaten by Australia for Saturday’s historic 100th clash with the All Blacks in Townsville as coach Jacques Nienaber suggested the team had lost its “soul” against the Wallabies.
Nienaber, who lashed the team for their performance in Brisbane saying it wasn’t worthy of the Springboks jersey, recalled the experienced trio of Lood de Jager, Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn for the game as he also made three bench changes, where he has opted for a 5-3 split.
De Jager returns after missing Saturday’s loss with concussion and reunites with Eben Etzebeth in the second row, with Marvin Orie dropping out of the squad.
Kwagga Smith comes into the No.7 with Franco Mostert dropping to the bench in a bid to manage workload.
Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn are the new players amongst the replacements, with Steyn set to provide cover at centre and fullback, and Elton Jantjies at flyhalf, while Herschel Jantjies will cover scrumhalf.
Jasper Wiese misses out because of a delay over his disciplinary hearing for foul play in the dying moments of the Suncorp match.
Cheslin Kolbe is sidelined again because of the leg injury suffered before the first match against Australia but Nienaber said he could be available for selection for the second match against NZ.
Nienaber said the team had engaged in an honest and brutal review after the two Australia defeats, but he felt there were promising signs within the wreckage.
“I think there were some things that were good. I thought our lineout mauling was good. I thought our scrums were good on the weekend, I thought we were good on the high ball,” said Nienaber.
Defensively though “I think there was one or two errors that we made.” He would work to “fix and rectify that going into this weekend’s game, and then probably just revisiting what our soul is, what we do as South Africans, what we enjoy doing, and probably going back to that.”
Pushed on that statement, Nienaber added: “If you look at what Australia did, they probably beat us at our own game. I don’t think they even made 70 passes in the whole game.
“They came with a completely different plan and changed completely what they did in the previous games against France and the All Blacks.
“I do think we probably got caught up a little bit in that. We had a good look at that, in terms of what our soul is, and I do think we played probably double the amount of rugby that Australia did – not to say that you don’t need to play rugby, but you must play rugby when it’s on, when the opportunity is there. And we probably pushed it a little bit when the opportunity wasn’t on.
“Australia c100% made a U turn in terms of what they did in the past versus what they did against us on the weekend. They beat us with our own game.”
Nienaber has come in for some heavy criticism in the wake of the defeats and said he welcomed it for the good of the game in South Africa and felt the internal pressure was worse than the external dissatisfaction.
“I think the pressure from myself and us as a a team is probably more,” Nienaber said.
“You look at yourself first and foremost, look at what happened and how we played and you think where did you go wrong and what you could have done better.
“That’s how we are as a team coaches and players are open and honest with each other and that’s what I love about this team.
“Tthe worst criticism is when it comes from us as peers and we take it. It’s tough to swallow but as for the criticism from outside, I think when people stop criticising that’s when you should worry.
“People criticise because they feel something for the team. When people stop that means they just don’t feel anything for the Boks any more.”
His team faces a massive challenge against the unbeaten All Blacks, who comfortably swept Australia before swatting side Argentina.
“It’s always a massive task to face the All Blacks,” said Nienaber.
“They have skillful players who thrive on turnover ball and who know how to capitalise on point-scoring opportunities, so we know that we need to a deliver a quality 80-minute performance against them to turn the corner after two disappointing defeats.
“Experience will be vital to ensure that we remain focused and calm throughout the match, and players such as Elton and Frans will bring that when they take the field. They have both played and won against the All Blacks, but they will also bring a set of different skills.
“Lood also boasts 51 Test caps, which will be valuable in this match, while has Kwagga has faced them before as well, which gives us a chance to give Franco a well-deserved opportunity to be managed carefully this week after a physically taxing load since the season started.
“Both Elton and Frans have been training very well, they’ve also been in our structures for years and have performed well for the team in high-pressure matches, so we are keen to see what dynamic they will bring to the game.”
Nienaber says he expects an epic encounter against the All Blacks.
“We are fully aware of the challenge that awaits us, and we know what we have to do to stay on the right side of the scoreboard this weekend – strong defence, accurate execution and capitalising on our point-scoring chances will be key,” said Nienaber.
“We also have to ensure we make minimal mistakes because the All Blacks have proved time and again how they punish teams from small errors, so we need to deliver an effective performance all around.”
15 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 68 caps, 60 pts (12t)
14 – Sbu Nkosi (Cell C Sharks) – 14 caps, 40 pts (8t)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 21 caps, 25 pts (5t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Munster) – 53 caps, 30 pts (6t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 20 caps, 80 pts (16t)
10 – Handré Pollard (vice-captain, Montpellier) – 55 caps, 544 pts (6t, 83c, 112p, 4d)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks) – 34 caps, 25 pts (5t)
8 – Duane Vermeulen (Vodacom Bulls) – 56 caps, 15 pts (3t)
7 – Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo) – 14 caps, 5 pts (1t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 58 caps, 30 pts (6t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks) – 51 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Toulon) – 92 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 45 caps, 5 pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers) – 43 caps, 45 pts (9t)
1 – Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls) – 49 caps, 5pts (1t)
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 41 caps, 45 pts (9t)
17 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 54 caps, 5pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Saracens) – 26 caps, 0 pts
19 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 46 caps, 5pts (1t)
20 – Marco van Staden (Leicester Tigers) – 8 caps, 0 pts
21 – Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 16 caps, 25 pts (5t)
22 – Elton Jantjies (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes) – 40 caps, 300 pts (2t, 64c, 54p)
23 – Frans Steyn (Toyota Cheetahs) – 69 caps, 141pts (11t, 7c, 21p, 3d)