Rassie Erasmus has named a strong side to face Argentina as the Boks begin their Rugby Championship campaign this Saturday.
The opening game marks the international return of Eben Etzebeth and 2017 South African Player of the Year Malcolm Marx, who have both been out of Springbok action with serious injuries. Etzebeth links up again alongside Stormers locking partner Pieter-Steph Du Toit, who also covered the blindside role during the Springboks 2-1 series win over England.
Francois Louw also comes back into the mix at openside, seeing captain Siya Kolisi shift to the blind while Lions captain Warren Whiteley also returns from injury after a lengthy layoff to take up the number eight role (occupied by Duane Vermeulen in June).
An injury to Sbu Nkosi has seen try scoring machine Makazole Mapimpi given a chance on the right wing in what will be only his second test match. The Sharks centre pairing of Lukhanyo Am and Andre Esterhuizen take form at international level as Damian De Allende is recovering from injury.
Erasmus has named an exciting bench featuring Embrose Papier and Damian Willemse (who is expected to make his debut as a fullback replacement). Bulls flanker Marco Van Staden is also set to make his debut off the bench.
Erasmus said he was pleased with the depth the returning players have added.
“Our forward depth is very good indeed and the competition for places in the team is healthy, which can only be a good thing for us as we continue to build the depth of our squad,” said Erasmus.
Erasmus went on to acknowledge the strengths of new Pumas coach Mario Ledesma and the confidence that they would ride on following a strong Super Rugby season from the Jaguares.
“Their new coach comes with a lot of technical knowledge and experience from his previous coaching roles which is sure to add more firepower to their traditional strengths,” said Erasmus.
“They will be very confident as a result of the Jaguares’ great run on tour in Australasia, where they won all four their matches on the road, as well as their winning performances against our own franchises.”
Starting XV: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Damian Willemse
Argentina – 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolás Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertanou, 8 Javier Ortego Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Augustin Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Subs: 16 Diego Fortuny, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Tomás Lavanini, 20 Tomás Lezana, 21 Martín Landajo, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Juan Cruz Mallia.