Vermeulen leads the much changed Boks against the Pumas at the start gaining Williams, Libbok and Arendse

Vermeulen leads the much changed Boks against the Pumas at the start gaining Williams, Libbok and Arendse

Duane Vermeulen.

Duane Vermeulen.

Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images

  • Duane Vermeulen returned to No. 8 to lead the Springboks in their test against Argentina in Johannesburg.
  • Grant Williams and Manie Libbok also form a new halfback partnership.
  • Kurt-Lee Arendse starts ahead of Makazole Mapimpi on the left wing.

Springbok coach Jack Nienaber made several changes to his squad to face Argentina in the final rugby championship test of the season at Ellis Park on Saturday.

No. 8 Duane Vermeulen is back to lead the Boks, having also done so in the 43-12 win over Australia at Loftus a few weeks earlier.

The Bok starting XV features nine changes on a changeup that fell 35-20 to the All Blacks in Auckland earlier this month.

Most notably, there’s a new pairing at centre-back with Grant Williams starting at scrumhalf in place of Damien Willemsey’s No. 10-capped Pfaff de Klerk and Mane Lebocq.

Read | Rugby Championship Permutations: The Springboks need a lot of Wallabies support to win the title

Coach Bock has also rotated loose forwards, with Vermeulen’s trio and flankers Peter-Steve du Toit and Marco van Staden, who started the competition opener against the Wallaby side, back in the starting fifteen.

Other changes up front are on a whim, where Malcolm Marks takes over from Bongi Mbonambi, and locking, where Marvin Orie comes in at Lood de Jager.

In defence, professional Kurt Lee Arendse – who scored a hat-trick against Australia – will start in place of Makazol Mpembe, while experienced player Jesse Creel will make his debut of the season in midfield alongside vice-captain Damien de Allende.

Ninaber opted for a five-way split into three on the bench in favor of forwards, which includes prop Trevor Nyakan, who will impress with Mbonambi, Vincent Koch (prop), RG Snyman (lock) and Kwagga Smith (loose striker).

The three back line reserves are Willemse, De Klerk (scrumhalf) and Lukhanyo Am (centre).

Springbok Team:

15 Willy Le Roux, 14 Cheslyn Colby, 13 Jesse Creel, 12 Damien D’Allende, 11 Court Lee Arendse, 10 Manny Lebbock, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Duane Vermeulen (Captain), 7 Peter Steve de Toit, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Marvin Urie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, Marine Esbeth

Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Trevor Nyakan, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Kwagga Smith, 20 RJ Sneeman, 21 Vav de Klerk, 22 Lukhanew AM, 23 Damien Willemsey

“This is a good team that will provide us with the skills we need against Argentina,” said Nenaber. “It also has a good balance of experience and youth, which is vital as we build towards the Rugby World Cup.

“There are only four more games before we start our Rugby World Cup campaign, so it’s good that we’re giving all the players a chance to claim places while choosing the teams we think are best equipped for the opposition we’ll face, and we’re pleased with the way we’ve managed this process so far.

“Obviously the result in New Zealand was bitterly disappointing, but we went into the season with a plan that we hope will allow us to pick the best possible team for the World Cup and peak in time.”

Nenaber said the Boks were eager to bounce back after the loss in Oakland. He stressed the importance of starting well this time around.

“The Pumas have shown in the last two matches that they can be a force to be reckoned with, so we have to be dexterous from the start, be precise in our execution of offense and defense, and take advantage of the opportunities we create,” said Nenaber. “They pride themselves on set-pieces, are very dangerous to exploit your mistakes, and never stop fighting which makes them a difficult opponent.

“But even so, we know where we went wrong in our last game, and we’re determined to right the wrongs on that day and get the season back on track.

“We’re anticipating a hard-fought battle and we know we need to be focused for the full 80 minutes, but we’re ready to go out there and give everything.”

Saturday’s match will be South Africa’s final home game of the season. The coach believes that this will lead to an increase in the strength of the team.

“We saw in 2019 how passionate the nation is about the Springboks and hope we can make this a good send-off for the team,” said Nenaber.

“The support we’ve had at Ellis Park in the past has been tremendous, and although we know our Rugby Championship hopes are out of control at the moment, it will be a memorable day if all goes our way, and the match proves decisive.”

Kick-off time is 17:05 on Saturday.

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