Sergeal Petersen will finally get the chance to push for higher honours when he lines up for the South African A side in their second game against the England Saxons in George.
Petersen is one of 10 changes made by coach Johan Ackermann on Tuesday to the team that lost 32-24 in Bloemfontein last week, with Springbok boss Allister Coetzee deciding not to release any players from his squad like he did last week.
This means that Garth April, Nic Groom, Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Scarra Ntubeni will remain with the Boks in Johannesburg ahead of Saturday’s second Test against Ireland at Ellis Park.
Cheetahs wing Petersen, though, was surprisingly left out of the match-23 for the first Saxons clash despite being joint-second on the Super Rugby try-scorers’ list with eight, with Bok centre Lionel Mapoe and Sunwolves flyer Akihito Yamada leading with nine.
Three of those came in one game against the Sunwolves in a 90-point thrashing, but Petersen has been one of the stand-out South African wings this season. Not only does he possess searing pace, but he has wonderful skills with ball-in-hand through chips over the top or reading the play well.
He will form a potent back-three with another in-form wide man in Courtnall Skosan and Leolin Zas, who impressed in an unfamiliar fullback position last week.
Southern Kings centre Lukhanyo Am gets an opportunity outside Francois Venter, while the rest of the team is dominated by the Bulls – halfbacks Francois Brummer and Piet van Zyl, No 8 Arno Botha, locks RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins and tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe.
Powerful Lions hooker Malcolm Marx would also want to atone for a disappointing performance when he came on in the second half in Bloemfontein as he missed his lineout jumpers on a few occasions.
However, Bulls loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka and Sharks tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen have again been left on the bench despite making a big impact last week.
Ackermann said in a statement on Tuesday that he hopes SA A can continue in the same way they played in the second half last week, where they scored 21 points and conceded just 10.
Their performance overall wasn’t too bad, but they made too many handling errors in the first half. “This is the kind of urgency I’ll be looking for from the players,” Ackermann said. “We tried things, but ultimately the first-half performance in Bloemfontein cost us dearly. If we can start on Friday like we finished off last week – bar that last try the Saxons scored – I know we can put together a much better show in George.
“These guys have worked incredibly hard over the last 10 days or so and all of them deserve an opportunity to get a taste of what international rugby is all about.
“I can also sense that the players are gelling a bit better on the training field, having spent more time together and they know what is expected of them this weekend. If we can sharpen up on defence and look after the ball a bit better, the rest will come.”
The match at Outeniqua Park will kickoff at 7.10pm on Friday and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.
South Africa A Team
15 Leolin Zas, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Oupa Mohoje (captain), 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Bench: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Ntando Kebe, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Travis Ismaiel.
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