Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has made wholesale changes to South Africa A for their clash with the Bulls in Cape Town, with Elton Jantjies leading the team that features nine World Cup winners.
The match, which kicks off at 1pm and will be broadcast live on SuperSport, is set to be followed by the clash between the Stormers and British & Irish Lions at the same venue at 6pm as the Lions series nears the highly-anticipated Test series, starting on Saturday, 24 July.
Nienaber, who flew from Johannesburg to Cape Town on Friday morning with a host of players who will begin their return-to-play protocols after recovering from Covid-19, made 12 changes to the starting team in line with his strategy to give as many players as possible the chance to stake a claim for places in the Test team.
Only three players who started in the team’s 17-13 win over the British & Irish Lions on Wednesday retained their places in the starting team – Damian de Allende (centre), Marco van Staden (flank) and Joseph Dweba (hooker).
Aphelele Fassi (fullback), Rosko Specman (wing), Cobus Reinach (scrumhalf), Kwagga Smith (No 8), all of whom started in the Test against Georgia two weeks ago, are back in the starting lineup.
Fassi made his Test debut at wing against Georgia and he will form up in an exciting back three with Specman and the uncapped Yaw Penxe, while exciting centre Wandisile Simelane will join forces with the experienced De Allende in the midfield.
Nienaber named a physical loose trio featuring Smith, Rynhardt Elstadt and Van Staden, while Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg is promoted from the bench to the starting team where he will start alongside Jean-Luc du Preez in the second row.
Dweba, meanwhile, will pack down with vice-captain Vincent Koch and Coenie Oosthuizen in the front row.
The expanded replacements bench also has a completely different look to it with Fez Mbatha, Lizo Ggoboka, Thomas du Toit and Wilco Louw – who joined the squad earlier in the week as additional prop cover – named alongside Jasper Wiese, Sanele Nohamba, Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, and Damian Willemse.
“We wanted another SA A match to give all the players a chance to show what they are capable of before we enter the Test series against the British & Irish Lions, and we are excited to give these players this valuable opportunity,” said Nienaber.
“With several changes to the match-day squad, there won’t be much continuity from Wednesday’s match, but the game time and the chance for these players to show what they can offer on the field will be invaluable with an eye on improving our match fitness and building momentum before we enter the Test series.”
Nienaber was thrilled to be back with the squad after having to watch the SA A team take on the British & Irish Lions from Johannesburg and said: “It’s great to be back with the squad and to be able to interact with the players and management staff.
“I joined all our coaching sessions and team meetings online during my Covid-19 isolation period, so it is a real pleasure to be back in the team set-up and coaching on the field.”
The Bok coach looked forward to the clash and said: “The Vodacom Bulls have been a force to be reckoned with in domestic rugby since rugby resumed late last year after a long absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so we are expecting a good match-up.
“We want to make the most of this opportunity to build on our structures and systems and also to tick certain boxes before the Test matches against the British & Irish Lions.”
Marius van der Westhuizen will be the referee in this match, with Rasta Rasivhenge and Aimee Barrett-Theron his assistants, while Marius Jonker is the TMO.
South Africa A team to face the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium:
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Elton Jantjies (c), 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 4 Jean-Luc du Preez, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen
Subs: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Japser Wiese, 20 Sanele Nohamba, 21 Sbu Nkosi, 22 Jesse Kriel, 23 Damian Willemse, 24 Lizo Gqoboka