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Etzebeth to reach a century of Bok Tests as Nienaber rings the changes

Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth to play his 100th Test match against Wales on Saturday.
Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth to play his 100th Test match against Wales on Saturday.
Image: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images

Eben Etzebeth will earn his 100th Test cap when the Springboks take on Wales in the third and decisive match at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday for which coach Jacques Nienaber has made 11 changes.

Hooker Bongi Mbonambi will run out for his 50th Test match.

Etzebeth, who made his Springbok debut in June 2012 against England, will become the seventh player to reach the 100th-cap milestone, following in the footsteps of Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana, Tendai Mtawarira, John Smit, Jean de Villiers and Percy Montgomery.

Mbonambi made his debut off the bench against Ireland in June 2016 and will become the 45th Bok to reach 50 Test caps.

Nienaber named a new-look backline featuring the versatile Damian Willemse at fullback, Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi on the wings and the regular centre pairing of Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am in the midfield.

He has retained the halfback pairing of Handré Pollard and Jaden Hendrikse in the backline, while regular Bok captain Siya Kolisi reclaims the captaincy in the loose trio with Pieter-Steph du Toit (flanker) and Jasper Wiese (No.8).

The other changes upfront see Lood de Jager pair up with Etzebeth in the second row and Nienaber has named a new front row of props Trevor Nyakane and Frans Malherbe on either side of Mbonambi.

There was an array of changes among the replacements, which again features a split of six forwards and two backs. Steven Kitshoff (prop), Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith (utility forwards) and Elrigh Louw (flanker) are on the bench with scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and fullback Willie le Roux.

While Nienaber was proud of the remarkable career milestones for Etzebeth and Mbonambi, he said the Boks need to keep their eyes on the prize of winning the series.

“We are very proud of Eben and Bongi for their achievements, though it would be remiss of us as a team for that to overshadow the fact that we need to win on Saturday to seal the series against Wales,” Nienaber said.

“Wales have shown over the years and in the last two matches that they are real fighters, and it will require a top-class performance from us on Saturday to register a victory and ultimately clinch the series.

“That said, Eben and Bongi have been true stalwarts to Springbok rugby and we hope that we can make this a special occasion for them. No-one wants to remember losing their 100th or 50th Test so we need to do everything we can to win the match.”

Nienaber said the selectors chose “a team and player combinations that we think will be the best for this specific game”.

“We had an honest discussion with the players telling them what we require from them this weekend and what we would like to see in terms of their performance and hopefully they can produce the goods and we can get the desired result.

“We have high standards as a team, and we would like to maintain that and build momentum with a challenging season lying ahead.”

Nienaber expects another brave effort from Wales.

“We pointed out from the outset of the series that Wales will be desperate and they showed that in the last two weeks.

“We are expecting another hard grind against them and the fact that they will be playing for their first series victory ever in SA will make them even more desperate to push us to the limit this weekend, so we know it will be an epic battle.

“That said, we are also playing in what is essentially a final for us and we know that we need to pitch up on the day and deliver a quality 80-minute performance to emerge victorious.”

Springbok Team: 15. Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers), 14. Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon), 13. Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), 12. Damian de Allende (Wild Knights), 11. Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks), 10, Handré Pollard (Leicester Tigers), 9, Jaden Hendrikse, 8. Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers), 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), 6. Siya Kolisi (capt., Cell C Sharks), 5. Lood de Jager (Wild Knights), 4. Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks), 3. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), 2. Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks), 1. Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92)

Replacements: 16. Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears), 17. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), 18. Vincent Koch (Wasps), 19 Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), 20. Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs), 21. Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls), 22. Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles), 23. Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz)


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