Willie le Roux (fullback), JJ Engelbrecht and Jano Vermaak (scrumhalf) will earn their Springbok debuts in the starting team, while three debutants are on the bench are Trevor Nyakane (prop), Arno Botha (loose forward) and Jan Serfontein (centre).
“This was not an easy team to select as I’ve been very impressed with the attitude shown by the players in training this week, I’m very happy that we’ve managed to retain the core of the team from last year for the sake of continuity, but it’s also great to see a bunch of new players emerge from Vodacom Super Rugby. said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday.
“Upfront we’ve managed to keep six of the eight who started against England and at the back there are a number of very exciting players who have earned their places in the team. I’m very excited to see what this new-look backline can do. A number of players just missed out on selection in the match-23, but there is no reason why they can’t force their way into the reckoning next week.”
With regards to the upcoming challenge that Italy will bring, Meyer said: “We respect the Italians but the focus will be on what we want to achieve this weekend. In the past they have been regarded as one of the lesser Test nations, but that is no longer the case. Just look at their performances in the Six Nations this year – they beat Ireland and France in Rome and just lost to England in London. They have always been exceptionally strong upfront and will test us, especially at scrum time. But they also have some superb backs and are very well led by Sergio Parisse, so we know this will not be a walk in the park.”
The Springboks host the Italians in Durban on Saturday, KO 17.15 (15.15 GMT; 17.15 Italian time)
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.