Johannesburg - Kurt-Lee Arndese will get his first taste of arguably the greatest rugby rivalry in the world after he was selected in the starting XV by Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber on Tuesday morning, but the the 26-year-old will have the unenviable task of filling the big boots of fleet-footed Cheslin Kolbe.
The Bulls winger will earn his second cap for the Springboks on Saturday against New Zealand in the opening match of the Rugby Championship (kick-off 5pm) in Mbombela and there will no doubt be many a comparisons draw between him and Kolbe this week, on matchday and after the encounter in the post-mortem of the clash.
Arendse is one of three changes Nienaber has made to the starting XV. The first sees hooker Malcolm Marx rewarded with the No 2 jumper after some mightily impressive displays off the bench against Wales recently. He replaces the ‘Big Dog’, Bongi Mbonambi, who drops down to the bench and who will form part of the Bomb Squad.
It will also be Marx’s 50th cap for the Boks.
“We are very proud of Malcolm’s achievement, and we wish him all the best for the game,” said Nienaber via a statement released by SA Rugby. “He is a true warrior, and he epitomises what we stand for as the Springboks.
“But as we said with the recent milestones of Eben (Etzebeth) and Bongi, we are preparing for a challenging Test which will be vital in setting the tone for our Rugby Championship campaign this year and that is our focus.
“The occasion will be so much more special for Malcolm if we win the Test, and the entire team needs to do their best so that he can look back at this occasion with good memories.”
The other change sees Faf de Klerk reinstated as the starting scrumhalf. His understudy, Jaden Hendrikse will sit alongside veteran Willie Le Roux on the bench.
The Le Roux selection means Damian Willemse will start at fullback once again, offering the Young Turk a level of consistency in his positional play, which will be a boon for the Boks against what will be a desperate All Blacks side.
Duane Vermeulen was a doubt at the start of the week due to a continued niggle, and that seems to have informed Nienaber’s decision to hand Jasper Wiese the No 8 jersey, with Kwagga Smith on the bench as cover.
Utility-back Frans Steyn, meanwhile, has also not made the matchday 23, and will arguably be used later in the tournament.
Springbok Starting XV: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (capt), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Jaden Hendrikse, 23 Willie le Roux.