World Cup-winning dynamos Faf de Klerk and Duane Vermeulen are back in the powerful Springboks side for Sunday’s clash against the Wallabies on the Gold Coast.
For No.8 Vermeulen, the 8.05pm clash at Cbus Super Stadium will be his first appearance for South Africa since his starring role in the 2019 World Cup final 22 months ago.
Ten days of training on the Gold Coast has confirmed his full recovery from the ankle surgery that ruled him out of the recent series win over the British and Irish Lions.
He has gone from waterboy to No.8 now he has proved his fitness to resume his 53-Test career.
For the ‘Boks, the return of livewire scrumhalf de Klerk means they have another game controller on deck as well as the kicking leader of their bomb squad.
Coach Jacques Nienaber has made seven changes to his starting line-up and just about all are obvious upgrades on those players who helped defeat Argentina 29-10 last month.
While de Klerk is back from a leg strain after missing three Tests, try-scoring magician Cheslin Kolbe is an unfortunate withdrawal with the leg injury he sustained at training last week.
Kolbe will be hard to replace as the game-breaking hero who scored decisive tries in the World Cup final and the deciding Test against the Lions.
“Duane has played an active role off the field in our team meetings and with the analysis of the opposition, and he has also provided guidance at training. He returned to full training when we arrived in Australia, so he has been in the thick of things for a while now,” Nienaber said.
“Duane, Faf and (reserve halfback) Herschel (Jantjies) are Rugby World Cup winners, and so is (lock) Eben (Etzebeth), who is back after we rotated him to manage his workload.
“Australia will be playing in front of a charged-up home crowd, so it will be good to have these experienced players back as they know what it takes to perform in big matches.”
Nienaber admitted that the presence of three backrowers on the ‘Boks bench was a reaction, in part, to the Wallabies’ game style.
“I know it looks weird. It’s balance because we have three locks starting but also because we know the Australians play with pace, tempo and massive continuity,” Nienaber said.
The experienced Etzebeth said the Springboks could continue their relentless mood and would not be resting on the accolades of their World Cup and Lions series’ highs.
“Winning a World Cup is great and beating the Lions is once in a career but our focus is not the past but what we can achieve in the future,” the 90-Test stalwart said.
“In 10 or 20 years it can be decided if this team is great or not. For us, the next game this weekend is what matters.”
NEW LEASE: Holmes embracing shock Wallabies call-up
BRIDGE GAP: Thorn taking it to Kiwis
SETBACK: Vunivalu ruled of TRC
The bumper day at Cbus Super Stadium opens with the All Blacks-Argentina Test from 5.05pm.
SOUTH AFRICA SIDE TO FACE AUSTRALIA:
15 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 66 caps, 60 pts (12t)
14 – Sbu Nkosi (Cell C Sharks) – 12 caps, 40 pts (8t)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 19 caps, 20 pts (4t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Munster) – 51 caps, 30 pts (6t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 18 caps, 80 pts (16t)
10 – Handré Pollard (vice-captain, Montpellier) – 53 caps, 521 pts (6t, 82c, 105p, 4d)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks) – 32 caps, 25 pts (5t)
8 – Duane Vermeulen (Vodacom Bulls) – 53 caps, 15 pts (3t)
7 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 44 caps, 5pts (1t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 56 caps, 30 pts (6t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks) – 50 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Toulon) – 90 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 43 caps, 5pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers) – 41 caps, 40 pts (8t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 52 caps, 5pts (1t)
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 39 caps, 35 pts (7t)
17 – Ox Nché (Cell C Sharks) – 4 caps, 0 pts
18 – Vincent Koch (Saracens) – 24 caps, 0 pts
19 – Marco van Staden (Leicester Tigers) – 6 caps, 0 pts
20 – Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo) – 12 caps, 5 pts (1t)
21 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 5 caps, 0 pts
22 – Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 14 caps, 25 pts (5t)
23 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 12 caps, 5pts (1t)