For the first time ever this year’s Rugby Championship will open in South Africa on Saturday. The Springboks will play host to Australia at Ellis Park in Johannesburg in the first of two matches taking place on Saturday afternoon.
The home side are to be captained by Eben Etzebeth. The France-bound second-rower replaces the injured Siya Kolisi with star winger Aphiwe Dyantyi also unfit to play in the match.
Head Coach Rassie Erasmus has named a new-look side with uncapped players Rynhardt Elstadt, and Herschel Jantjies both named to start and a third player, Lizo Gqoboka will make his test debut from the bench.
Elstadt is to play in place of Kolisi to form a back-row trio with veterans Pieter-Steph du Toit, and Francois Louw. Other experienced players in the team come in the form of loose head Tendai Mtawarira; second-rower Lood de Jager; fly half Elton Jantjies; and center Jesse Kriel.
While there are new faces there are also established names among the replacements. Among them are European-based players Marcell Coetzee, Cobus Reinach, and François Steyn.
Australia’s side is also not altogether familiar. Head Coach Michael Cheika has raised some eye-brows with the selection of Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Starting will be debutant Isi Naisarani who moved to Australia from his native Fiji in 2014. He recently turned down selection for Fiji to instead become a Wallaby. He is to join captain Michael Hooper, and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in the back-row.
Johnson-Holmes has been named in the 23 despite having only arrived in South Africa on Wednesday. He was an emergency call-up following the non-availability of Allan Alaalatoa, in addition to injuries to Scott Sio, and Tom Robertson.
Folau Fainga’a will start at hooker with Jordan Uelese named as his deputy. This is to mark the official comeback for the latter who has only two caps with the last of them coming in September 2017. He has forced his way back following knee surgery.
In the backs the absence of Israel Folau has seen Tom Banks being preferred to Kurtley Beale at fullback and Dane Haylett-Petty named to play on the wing.
Saturday’s match is to be the 88th overall test match between South Africa, and Australia. The Springboks have the superior record with 47 wins compared to 37 wins by the Wallabies.
The form of Australia in 2018 in combination with the overall performances of players, and teams in Super Rugby indicates that South Africa have an advantage. The Springboks are projected to win by 9 points.
1 Tendai Mtawarira, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 4 Eben Etzebeth (capt.), 5 Lood de Jager, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8 Francois Louw, 9 Hershel Jantjies, 10 Elton Jantjies, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 12 André Esterhuizen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 15 Warrick Gelant
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds
1 James Slipper, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 3 Sekope Kepu, 4 Izack Rodda, 5 Rory Arnold, 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 7 Michael Hooper (capt.), 8 Isi Naisarani, 9 Nic White, 10 Bernard Foley, 11 Reece Hodge, 12 Samu Kerevi, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 15 Tom Banks
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt To’omua, 23 Kurtley Beale
Date: Saturday, July 20
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kickoff: 17:00 local (08:00 Pacific, 11:00 Eastern, 12:00 Buenos Aires)
Referee: Paul Williams (NZRU)
Assistants: Matthew Carley (RFU) & Karl Dickson (RFU)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (RFU)