Frans Malherbe (prop) will mark the significant career milestone of running out in his 50th Test for South Africa.
The three rotational switches made by Nienaber see bruising No 8 Duane Vermeulen return to the Springbok squad after recovering from surgery to his knee, where he takes over from Jasper Wiese, while Bongi Mbonambi slots back in at hooker after Malcolm Marx earned a start last week to celebrate his 50th Test cap, and Ox Nche takes over from Trevor Nyakane at loosehead prop.
The two changes in the backline see Jaden Hendrikse coming in at scrumhalf for Faf de Klerk, who has been placed on a return to play protocol after suffering concussion in the team’s 26-10 victory against New Zealand last week, while Jesse Kriel will start on the right wing in place of Kurt-Lee Arendse, who also suffered concussion and has been released from the squad after being handed a four-week suspension for a dangerous tackle in the match.
While Mbonambi and Marx switch roles between the starting team and replacements bench, Vermeulen’s inclusion sees Wiese take the role of an impact player in place of lock Salmaan Moerat, while Herschel Jantjies fills the void left by Hendrikse’s promotion to the starting team.
“We made a few changes to the team, but Duane, Jesse and Herschel are all experienced players who know our systems well and have been stalwarts for the Boks,” said Nienaber.
“Ox has also shown his ability to make his presence felt in the front row, so he is back in the mix.”
Nienaber said they were mindful of the fact that Vermeulen is returning from injury, but he said this prompted him to tweak his forward cover on the bench.
“Duane has a massive presence on the field and there is no bigger game for him to make his comeback from injury than facing the All Blacks,” said Nienaber.
“He is an enforcer on attack and defence and we know he will give everything against a physical All Blacks team that are desperate to bounce back strongly from a challenging run of results.
“Jasper is also a warrior, and we know that he will have an equally strong presence when he takes the field.
Jesse has played over 50 Tests, and he has been waiting in the wings for his chance. He’s played wing for us before, so we know what he can bring to the game, and we are also excited to welcome back Herschel, who has played an immense role to help prepare the playing squad for the last two Tests.”
Nienaber lauded Malherbe for his achievement of reaching a half century of caps and said: “We are very proud of Frans, and it is up to the team to make it a memorable occasion for him by giving their all to register a victory.
“Frans’ work ethic is fantastic and although he is quiet off the field, he certainly makes his presence felt on the field.”
Nienaber expected a massive onslaught from New Zealand on Saturday despite the All Blacks suffering their second biggest defeat yet against the Springboks last week (16 points – one less than their biggest ever defeat of 17 points).
“New Zealand are similar to the Springboks in the sense that they do not give up,” said Nienaber.
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“They fought until the end against us at the Mbombela Stadium last week and we expect nothing less from them on Saturday.
“They have quality players within their ranks and given the rich history between the sides in Johannesburg and their desperation to turn things around after a few disappointing results, we know we are in for a massive challenge this weekend.
“Our focus, however, is on improving our game and ensuring that we build on our form from last week. We had an honest assessment of our performance last week, and while there were several positives, there are areas that we need to make a step-up in, and it will be vital to get that right before we travel to Australia and Argentina for the away leg of the tournament, so this is a vital match for us.”
Springbok team to face New Zealand in Johannesburg:
15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 19 caps, 12 pts (1t, 2c, 1p)
14 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) – 52 caps, 60 pts (12t)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 29 caps, 25 pts (5t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 61 caps, 35 pts (7t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 28 caps, 100 pts (20t)
10 – Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers) – 63 caps, 649 pts (7t, 88c, 141p, 5d)
9 – Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks) – 5 caps, 5 pts (1t)
8 – Duane Vermeulen (Ulster) – 61 caps, 15 pts (3t)
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 61 caps, 25 pts (5t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 66 caps, 35 pts (7t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Wild Knights) – 59 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 101 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 49 caps, 5pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 51 caps, 55 pts (11t)
1 – Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks) – 10 caps, 0pts
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 50 caps, 55 pts (11t)
17 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 62 caps, 5pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (Wasps) 35 caps, 0 pts
19 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 54 caps, 5pts (1t)
20 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 14 caps, 0 pts
21 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 22 caps, 5 pts (1t)
22 – Hershel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 22 caps, 25 pts (5t)
23 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 75 caps, 65 pts (13t)