Vermeulen leads Boks into All Black battle
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Experienced No.8 Duane Vermeulen will lead the Springboks against the All Blacks on Saturday.
The two traditional rivals clash in Wellington in the second round of the shortened Rugby Championship.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus named a much-changed side from the one that defeated the Wallabies by 35-17 in Johannesburg last weekend.
The Boks and All Blacks will battle it out in front of an expected capacity crowd of 34 500 at the Westpac Stadium.
“It is important that we continue to build on our leadership for this important year, especially while our regular skipper, Siyamthanda Kolisi, is out of action because of injury rehabilitation,” Erasmus said.
“Duane is an experienced captain and we have a strong group of leaders in the team, which includes Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit, who have both captained the Springboks before, as well as a number of other franchise captains.”
Etzebeth (lock), last weekend’s Bok captain, and Pieter-Steph du Toit (loose forward) are the only two forwards who were retained from the win over the Wallabies.
Makazole Mapimpi (wing) is the only backline player in the starting line-up who also started last weekend.
The rest of the Springbok starting line-up consists mainly of the group of players that were part of an advance party that travelled to New Zealand last Thursday – a few days before the rest of the South African tour party.
Willie le Roux returns at fullback, while Cheslin Kolbe is drafted in on the right wing.
Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am form a familiar-looking midfield pairing and they will play next to Handré Pollard (flyhalf) and Francois de Klerk (scrumhalf).
Vermeulen, Du Toit and Albertus Smith (flank) form the loose trio, with the former BlitzBok speedster set to earn his second start in the Green and Gold following his international debut last year against Wales in Washington.
Franco Mostert partners Etzebeth in the second row and Malcolm Marx (hooker) is joined in the front row by Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe.
The forward bench consists of Mbongeni Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Rudolph Snyman and Francois Louw, while Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn and Jesse Kriel are the replacement backs.
Saturday’s much-anticipated Test is a rematch of last year’s epic clash between the two countries, which the Springboks won 36-34 in the Cake Tin.
Erasmus said the Boks will not be carried away by their home win over the Wallabies, which was South Africa’s biggest win over Australia in the last five years.
The Boks only have two Tests left in the shortened Rugby Championship and two more internationals against Argentina and Japan, before the start of the World Cup in September.
Erasmus is looking forward to seeing what his team can do against the defending world champions.
“We have the utmost respect for the All Blacks who are the undisputed No.1 rugby team in the world,” said Erasmus.
“We know we will have to be at our very best to be competitive against the All Blacks on Saturday.
“That is why we have sent a group of players in advance to Wellington, so they could acclimatise after the long trip over from South Africa.
“The New Zealanders are a very experienced and settled side, while we have some catching up to do in terms of where the two sides are at the moment.
“They are bringing back their Crusaders players, who were all rested after the Super Rugby Final, so we are in for a huge battle against the best team in the world,” added Erasmus.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel.
Date: Saturday, July 27
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.35 (09.35 SA time; 07.35 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)