Damian de Allende will make his Springbok debut next to returning national captain Jean de Villiers when South Africa open their Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday (kick-off 17h00).
De Villiers is one of three returning Springboks who played no part in the Castle Lager Incoming Series because of injury. The others are Frans Malherbe and Eben Etzebeth, who have both been selected on the bench.
Junior Springbok captain Handré Pollard will get his second Test cap when he lines up between the experienced De Villiers and Ruan Pienaar, while Willem Alberts and Tendai Mtawarira are also back after missing the Scotland Test because of injuries.
At lock, Lood de Jager will have to fill the considerable boots of the injured Victor Matfield, but he’ll have the experienced Bakkies Botha next to him.
“It’s great to welcome back Jean, Willem, ‘Beast’, Eben and Frans, but I’m also very excited to see what Damian can do after he missed out on making his debut in June because of an injury,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Jean and Damian have played together before, albeit not this way around. But Damian has experience of playing outside centre from his junior days and he got his break at inside centre when he had to step up in Jean’s place.
“Handré also deserved another opportunity and it will be good to see how he combines with Jean and Damian.
“Lood has improved a lot over the last couple of months and although it’s a big ask for him to fill the void left by Victor, I know he has the goods to deliver. He will be well-supported by Duane Vermeulen in the line-outs though.”
Meyer moved Jan Serfontein, who had a very good series in June, to the bench as injury cover, with De Villiers and De Allende both returning from injuries, while Morne Steyn will provide back-up at flyhalf and fullback.
“Jan was one of our best players in June, but Jean is our captain and was always going to return once he was fit again,” said Meyer.
“We’re up against a formidable opponent on Saturday and we can’t take any chances or make experiments. The players know they have to be switched on mentally and physically, otherwise it could become a long afternoon at Loftus.”
Pat Lambie will return to Durban on Wednesday to play for the Cell C Sharks in the Absa Currie Cup on Friday evening, when they host the Steval Pumas.
Meyer said: “Pat missed four months of Vodacom Super Rugby and although he made his return towards the end of the competition, it was felt that he could do with game time this weekend before we leave for Argentina and we’d like to thank the Sharks for agreeing to give him a run.”
The Springbok team to face Argentina in Pretoria is:
15. Willie le Roux 15 tests 35 points
14. Cornal Hendricks 3 tests 10 points
13. Damian de Allende 0 tests 0 points
12. Jean de Villiers (captain) 96 tests 125 points
11. Bryan Habana 97 tests 275 points
10. Handré Pollard 1 test 13 points
9. Ruan Pienaar 76 tests 130 points
8. Duane Vermeulen 19 tests 10 points
7. Willem Alberts 32 tests 35 points
6. Francois Louw 30 tests 25 points
5. Lood de Jager 3 tests 10 points
4. Bakkies Botha 79 tests 35 points
3. Jannie du Plessis 54 tests 5 points
2. Bismarck du Plessis (vice-captain) 60 tests 45 points
1. Tendai Mtawarira 55 tests 10 points
16. Adriaan Strauss 34 tests 25 points
17. Trevor Nyakane 4 tests 5 points
18. Frans Malherbe 2 tests 0 points
19. Eben Etzebeth 23 tests 0 points
20. Marcell Coetzee16 tests 10 points
21. Francois Hougaard 28 tests 20 points
22. Morné Steyn 56 tests 660 points
23. Jan Serfontein 12 tests 5 points
Stats and facts:
• The Springbok starting team boasts a total of 620 Test caps (288 in the backline and 332 in the forwards), while there a further 175 caps worth of experience on the bench.
• South Africa and Argentina have played each other 17 times since 1993, with the Springboks winning 16 Tests and one was drawn. The Springboks have scored 682 points and 84 tries and conceded 324 points and 30 tries for an average score of 40-19.
• South Africa and Argentina last met on 24 August 2013 in Mendoza in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship. The Boks beat Argentina 22-17 after trailing 13-17 at half-time. Morné Steyn kicked two penalties in the last ten minutes. This was a week after the Boks beat Argentina 73-13 in Soweto.
• Jean de Villiers will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok centre, with 81 Tests in this position. He will also captain the Springboks for a 25th time.
• Bryan Habana will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok wing, with 96 Tests in this position. He will also extend his record of seven career appearances against Argentina and if he scores a try, will extend his record of 55 Test tries for South Africa as well as his Castle Lager Rugby Championship record of 17 tries in this competition.
• If he goes on at flyhalf, Morné Steyn will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok flyhalf, with 54 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 own record of nine Test tries for South Africa. Bismarck and his older brother Jannie will extend their record of playing together in 34 Tests for the Springboks. Bismarck, Jannie and Tendai Mtawarira will also extend their record of 16 Tests as a front-row pairing for South Africa.
• Damian de Allende becomes Springbok no. 862.
• The referee is John Lacey of Ireland. This will be his first Test involving South Africa.
Springbok Test match records at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria:
o Most points – 31 by Percy Montgomery (2t, 9c,1p) against Wales on 27 June, 1998.
o Most tries – three by Danie Gerber against South America on 27 March, 1982; by Pieter Rossouw against Wales on 27 June, 1998 and by Bryan Habana against Australia on 29 September, 2012.
o Most conversions – nine by Percy Montgomery on 27 June, 1998.
o Most penalty goals – six by Gerald Bosch against France on 28 June, 1975 and by Braam van Straaten against England on 17 June, 2000.
o Most drop goals – one by six players. The latest was André Pretorius against Australia on 30 July, 2005.
o Most will be the Springboks 33rd Test match at Loftus. In the previous 32 Tests the Boks have won 24 and lost eight scoring 1072 points in the process and 650 points against.