Exciting young wings Aphiwe Dyantyi and S’bu Nkosi and lock RG Snyman will be the only debutants in the starting Springbok team to take on England in the first Test at Ellis Park on Saturday.
And, new coach Rassie Erasmus is expected to pick a spine of experienced campaigners for the first of three Tests – Willie le Roux at fullback, Handré Pollard at flyhalf, Faf de Klerk at nine, Duane Vermeulen at eighthman and Bismarck du Plessis at hooker.
The fifth overseas-based player in the 43-man Springbok squad picked for the one-off Test against Wales and the three Tests against England - centre Frans Steyn – is likely to only play off the bench this coming weekend, if at all. He and hooker du Plessis will only join up with the rest of their Bok team-mates tomorrow after featuring for their French club, Montpellier, in the Top 14 final this last weekend.
Erasmus’ team for Saturday’s match will have a far more experienced look about it than the side that travelled to Washington last week for the Test against Wales. That side featured 13 uncapped players in the match day squad, with only a handful of the men expected to be considered for duty at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Erasmus, though, said last week that between seven and 10 players in the squad for the Wales game would be considered for the first England game, which may be true, but not necessarily for the starting team. All the bench-sitters this coming weekend could come from the squad that travelled to Washington.
Le Roux, who plays for Wasps in the English Premiership, is almost certain to start at fullback, with the Lions’ Dyantyi and the Sharks’ Nkosi on the wings. The Bulls’ Warrick Gelant, though, could also be used at 15 with Le Roux playing on the wing, which would mean one of Dyantyi or Nkosi playing off the bench.
At centre it appears as if Erasmus will almost certainly go with Lukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende, without doubt two of the in-form midfielders in Super Rugby this season. Neither travelled to Washington and are thus expected to be used in a new-look midfield pairing at Ellis Park. Jesse Kriel, who partnered rookie André Esterhuizen against Wales, will possibly come into the equation as a super-sub at the back – covering centre, wing and fullback.
Handré Pollard and De Klerk are certain of their starting roles in the first Test after being kept out of harm’s way in Washington and so are the three loose-forwards who were part of the 17 men in the 43-man squad that didn’t travel to the US - namely Vermeulen, Jean-Luc du Preez and captain Siya Kolisi.
The Bulls’ Snyman and Franco Mostert of the Lions will definitely be involved on Saturday, but who starts and who sits on the bench will be determined by how Pieter-Steph du Toit – who captained the Boks against Wales yesterday - recovers after the trip back to South Africa. He will almost certainly feature against England, but it could be as a starting lock or as a bench-sitter covering lock and loose-forward.
In the front row, non-travelling props Tendai Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane look set to start with Steven Kitshoff and Wilco Louw likely to warm the bench. Du Plessis, depending on his well-being after the Top 14 final, will start at hooker, with just-back-from-injury Bongi Mbonambi probably his back-up.
The three men who travelled to Washington as cover for the match day squad – prop Frans Malherbe, scrumhalf Cameron Wright and loose-forward Nizaam Carr – are not in the running to play against England.
Saturday’s Test kicks off at 5pm and it is followed by further Tests in Bloemfontein and Cape Town.
Probable starting team for the first Test: Willie le Roux, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, S’bu Nkosi, Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Duane Vermeulen, Jean-Luc du Preez, Siya Kolisi (capt), Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Trevor Nyakane, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira