There are five debutants in the Springbok squad to face Scotland in Port Elizabeth, with 14 changes from the match-day 23 that edged Wales in Nelspruit.
The four uncapped players on a new-look bench are prop Marcel van der Merwe, lock Stephan Lewies, loose forward Teboho Mohoje and flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff. Also on the bench are Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Francois Hougaard and Zane Kirchner, none of whom have played any Test rugby yet this season.
Two players, Handré Pollard and Marcell Coetzee, have not yet featured for the Springboks this year, while four of these are replacements who have been promoted to the starting team, namely Lwazi Mvovo, Schalk Burger, Lodewyk de Jager and Coenie Oosthuizen.
Tendai Mtawarira (neck), Flip van der Merwe (knee) Willem Alberts (concussion) and Johan Goosen (knee) were not considered for selection this week. Goosen has been released from the squad and has returned to Bloemfontein to continue his final phase rehabilitation at the Cheetahs.
“We had to make a number of changes to the team and while team selection is never easy, especially this week when we had to make a few hard decisions, it’s been great to see the excitement under the players for this final Test of the series,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Our plans had always been to try a few new combinations this week against Scotland and I’m looking forward to see the guys grab their opportunities.”
Meyer said Pollard had always been part of his plans for the June Tests, but that his selection as SA Under-20 captain meant he could only join the squad this week.
“Handré is a very talented player and has a big opportunity this week, but he’ll have Fourie du Preez’s experience next to him, while he’s played a lot with Jan Serfontein before. It’s great to have the current and a former World Junior Player of the Year in the same backline.
“The other new faces in the starting line-up have been part of our squad for some time and they all deserve a run.”
On the composition of the bench, Meyer commented: “Adriaan, Trevor, Francois and Zane know what it’s about while the other guys will bring energy and enthusiasm with them.
“All of them deserve this chance. ‘Oupa’ still played Varsity and Vodacom Cup rugby earlier this season before he got an opportunity to play Super Rugby for the Cheetahs because of injuries. He took his chance and now he’s on the cusp of making his Test debut,” said Meyer.
“Marnitz and Marcel have shone for their franchises this year and patiently waited in the last couple of weeks, always working hard and putting in everything at our training sessions. Stephan only joined us on Monday, but he made an impression already at our training camp in Durban last month and slotted in without any problems this week.
“Marcel, Stephan, Oupa and Marnitz all made their Super Rugby debuts earlier this year following injuries to other players and it’s great to see so many younger players come through the ranks.”
The Springboks will face a confident Scotland side on Saturday after they beat the USA, Canada and Argentina on tour in the last three weeks.
“They are always a tough opponent, like we saw last year in Nelspruit, but our aim is to build on the two victories over Wales in the last fortnight,” said Meyer.
Meanwhile, Van der Merwe has joined a long list of injured players who will not play again this season after he was ruled out for six months following examination by specialists in Pretoria. He injured his posterior cruciate ligaments.
Mtawarira, who has a bulging disc in his neck and consulted with a specialist in Durban earlier this week, will be monitored for the next two weeks before a decision on his return to the field will be made.
The following players missed out on the entire or part of the June Tests because of injury: Jean de Villiers (knee), Damian de Allende (knee) Eben Etzebeth (foot), Jaque Fourie (ankle), Pat Lambie (bicep), Frans Malherbe (concussion), Scarra Ntubeni (foot), Pieter-Steph du Toit (knee), Franco van der Merwe (ankle), Arno Botha (knee), Pierre Spies (bicep), Louis Schreuder (hand), Gio Aplon (elbow), Juan de Jongh (pneumonia), Mtawarira, Van der Merwe, Alberts and Goosen.
Seven players based in France and England have been released to their clubs and were not available for selection this week. they are Gurthrö Steenkamp, Schalk Brits, Bakkies Botha, Francois Louw, Morné Steyn, Wynand Olivier and Bryan Habana.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Teboho Mohoje, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Zane Kirchner.