Uncapped flanker Jacques Potgieter is one of three changes to the Springboks’ starting XV for the third Test against England.
Potgieter replaces the injured Willem Alberts who has not recovered sufficiently from a knee injury to be considered. The other two changes to the starting line-up are also enforced, as Gio Aplon steps in for the injured Pat Lambie at fullback and centre Wynand Olivier replaces Frans Steyn who has been granted leave to get married.
The Boks will miss Steyn in midfield, but losing Alberts is a big blow to their gainline ambitions. Coach Heyneke Meyer, however, believes Potgieter will get the Boks on to the front foot.
‘I like a big, ball-carrying blindside flank and Willem has been awesome in the past two matches,’ said Meyer. ‘He is not available this week but I think Jacques can do that job. He’s already proved himself in that role for the Bulls during Super Rugby and I believe he will add a lot of value.
‘If Willem was fit, then I would have started Jacques from the bench. So in a way it’s worked out well as I will see what Jacques can offer. We need him to get us some momentum.’
Steyn’s unavailability disrupts the midfield dynamic, leaving the 10-12 channel susceptible to an England barrage. Meyer challenged this view, however, pointing to Olivier’s experience at Test level and his Super Rugby partnership with flyhalf Morné Steyn as a big plus.
‘Wynand is established in that No 12 position and and he understands the game plan [Olivier worked under Meyer when the Bok coach was still at the Bulls]. The selection also ensures that we have some continuity in midfield,’ Meyer added, referring to the fact that Olivier has come off the bench in the past two Tests to play at No 12.
Jean de Villiers has played the bulk of his Tests at inside centre but Meyer said he would like the Bok skipper to concentrate on the No 13 position. Frans Steyn will return at No 12 for the Rugby Championship, and so Meyer’s reason for this selection was down to continuity.
‘It’s important for Jean to stick to one position at this stage. I don’t want to move him around if I don’t have to.’
Aplon will also be required to play an unfamiliar role at No 15. In the past two Tests, Lambie has been required to complement Francois Hougaard and Morne Steyn in the kicking department. It will be a big ask for Aplon, although he has also been encouraged by the Bok coach to express himself if the opportunity presents itself.
‘I’ve always rated Gio, he’s an exciting player. I want players to fit into the game plan but that doesn’t mean I will box [restrict] them. He has a strong running game and unbelievable feet, and we will be looking for a special performance from him.
‘It’s a good opportunity. There is no pecking order with me, so the chance is there for him to impress me.’
The changes to the bench see loose forward Ryan Kankowski replacing Keegan Daniel and flyhalf Elton Jantjies also joining the reserves.
Springboks – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Bjorn Basson.
By Jon Cardinelli, in Port Elizabeth