DURBAN - The Springbok team to play Georgia in their first Test match since the World Cup final has two brand new wings in Aphelele Fassi and Rosco Specman, while a further debutant in Jasper Wiese is on the bench to cover a refreshing choice at No 8 in Sevens star Kwagga Smith.
Smith takes over from injured World Cup No 8 Duane Vermeulen while the fresh faces on the wings are due to the unavailability of World Cup stars Cheslin Kolbe (late arrival from France), Sbu Nkosi (Covid-19) and Makazole Mapimpi (Covid isolation).
The latter has not tested positive for Covid but was in close contact with Nkosi, as was his Sharks teammate Lukhanyp Am, who has also been stood down from selection and has been replaced at outside centre by Jesse Kriel.
A number of overseas-based players were not considered for selection because they joined the squad late from various competitions in the northern hemisphere or are on the way back from injury. In this group would be Kolbe, Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman and Damian de Allende.
A delighted Jacques Nienaber said he thought the day he would name his first Springbok team would never come.
“It is awesome to at last read out my first team after being appointed way back in January 2020,” he said. “it seems so long ago and I wondered if it would ever happen. But at last, it is here and we are super excited.
“We have selected the best team with an eye on what we would like to achieve in this Test against Georgia and we believe that we have a good balance with a number of experienced campaigners and a few young players who have made a strong statement this season,” Nienaber said
“Most of the players in this squad are Rugby World Cup winners, while others have been part of the national squad for a few seasons, and this will be invaluable against a team that boasts the passion that Georgia exhibit.
“We are also excited to see what the uncapped players bring to the table after impressive performances for their franchises in the last few seasons. Each one of them has proved that they deserve an opportunity at this level and the commitment and enthusiasm they displayed at training have been striking.
"We are expecting Georgia to come out with guns blazing with their passionate and physical rugby, so we need to find our rhythm early on and build up a good 80-minute performance," said Nienaber.
“We know how big this challenge will be, but it is vital that we build a solid foundation in the next two Tests in order to refine our skill set, match readiness and ability to perform under pressure.”
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse