Springbok coach Allister Coetzee’s biggest surprise in his team for the Rugby Championship clash against Argentina in Port Elizabeth on Saturday is Cheetahs’ loose forward Uzair Cassiem taking the number 8 jersey. The position was filled more recently by Warren Whiteley before he was injured in the first Test against France, and then by Jean-Luc du Preez from the Sharks who did nothing wrong to warrant a demotion to the bench. Cassiem, with one Test to his name, is a competent player but hasn’t done much this past Super Rugby season as he battled with a knee injury. He’s also known as a flanker more than an eighth man, and he’s considered to be a bit small for the back of the scrum. But he’s a tough player who enjoys the physicality of the game, an attribute that Coetzee has praised. The selection of Sharks flyhalf Curwin Boschon the bench is a good one. Bosch has long been considered a star in the making, and a second half run to introduce him to the rigours of Test rugby comes at a good time in the 20-year old’s career. – David O’Sullivan
Uzair Cassiem will start at No 8 for the Springboks in the opening match of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth this coming Saturday.
The Toyota Cheetahs loose forward comes into the starting line-up for only his second Test after he made his international debut in November 2016 against Wales in Cardiff, with Jean-Luc du Preez moving to the bench.
The other change in the pack that started the third Test against France in Johannesburg in June, sees the inclusion of experienced tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen in place of Ruan Dreyer.
Hougaard and Du Preez are joined on the bench by experienced prop Trevor Nyakane, as well as Curwin Bosch, the promising young Cell C Sharks and Junior Springbok flyhalf, who will make his Springbok debut should he run onto the field on Saturday.
“Uzair is a very versatile loose forward and the added advantage is that he is also an excellent option in the lineout,” explained Coetzee.
“Coenie has played consistently well this season for the Cell C Sharks and he performed well for us whenever he came off the bench in the French series, while Trevor has worked extremely hard and deserves his opportunity.”
“Curwin is a young player with huge potential and a bright future ahead of him,” said Coetzee.
“He showed in the very tough Vodacom Super Rugby competition that he is a skilful player and a prolific goal kicker and he covers both fullback and flyhalf.
“He can be very proud of his inclusion in the match day squad as he matriculated from Grey Port Elizabeth just two years ago.”
According to the Springbok coach, the Boks are well prepared for the opening fixture against the Pumas: “We are pleased with our preparations and we expect another huge contest from Argentina, a very proud rugby nation.
“They are excellent in their set pieces and have a number of world class players in this team. Their biggest threat is that they strike from the first phase, hard at the breakdown, looking to turn the ball over and get into the general attack,” explained Coetzee.
Saturday’s fixture at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium is match number 100 for South Africa in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship since the inaugural Tri-Nations match against Australia on 13 July 1996. The match is also the tenth meeting between the Springboks and the Pumas since the Argentinians joined the competition in 2012.
The Springboks are unbeaten at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, with three wins and a draw dating back to 2011 at the state-of-the-art venue.
The Springbok side to face Argentina in Port Elizabeth is:
15. Andries Coetzee (Emirates Lions), 3 caps, 0 points
14. Raymond Rhule (Toyota Cheetahs), 3 caps, 0 points
13. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls), 19 caps, 25 points (5t)
12. Jan Serfontein (Vodacom Bulls), 29 caps, 20 points (4t)
11. Courtnall Skosan (Emirates Lions), 3 caps, 0 points
10. Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions), 14 caps, 130 points (1t, 22c, 27p)
9. Ross Cronje (Emirates Lions), 2 caps, 5 points (1 t)
8. Uzair Cassiem (Toyota Cheetahs) 1 cap, 5 points (1t)
7. Jaco Kriel (Emirates Lions), 8 caps, 0 points
6. Siya Kolisi (DHL Stormers), 19 caps, 5 points (1t)
5. Franco Mostert (Emirates Lions), 9 caps, 0 points
4. Eben Etzebeth (captain, DHL Stormers), 57 caps, 15 points (3t)
3. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cell C Sharks), 26, 20 points (4t)
2. Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), 5 caps, 5 points (1t)
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 90 caps, 10 points (2t)
16. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 8 caps, 0 points
17. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), 13 caps, 0 points
18. Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls), 28 caps, 5 points (1t)
19. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), 23 caps, 15 points (3t)
20. Jean-Luc du Preez (Cell C Sharks), 4 caps, 0 points
21. Francois Hougaard (Worcester Warriors, England), 42 caps, 25 points (5t)
22. Curwin Bosch (Cell C Sharks), uncapped
23. Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers), 22 caps, 15 points (3t)
Stats and milestones:
- Tendai Mtawarira will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok prop to 91 caps in this position. He is the third most experienced Springbok forward behind Victor Matfield and John Smit.
- Mtawarira will also play in his 40th Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test match, which ranks him fourth behind Bryan Habana (53), Jean de Villiers (50) and Victor Matfield (48).
- The following players will make their Castle Lager Rugby Championship debuts: Uzair Cassiem, Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronjé, Raymond Rhule and Courtnall Skosan. It will also be the first games for Jean-Luc du Preez and Curwin Bosch should they come off the bench.
- Bosch will become Springbok #887 if he runs onto the field as a replacement.