CAPE TOWN. — Uzair Cassiem will start at No. 8 for the Springboks in their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth tomorrow.
The match will kick-off at 5pm.
The 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 tight-head prop Coenie Oosthuizen in place of Ruan Dreyer.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee made only one change to the backline, with scrum-half Ross Cronje resuming the No. 9 duties from Francois Hougaard.
Hougaard and Du Preez are joined on the bench by experienced prop Trevor Nyakane, as well as Curwin Bosch, the promising young 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 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.”
Coetzee said that Bosch had slotted well into the Springbok environment during his stay of almost two weeks with the squad in Port Elizabeth. The youngster also attended the Boks’ pre-season training camp in April.
“Curwin is a young player with huge potential and a bright future ahead of him,” said Coetzee.
“He showed in the very tough 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 first phase, hard at the breakdown, looking to turn ball over and get into general attack,” explained Coetzee.
Experienced Springbok Tendai Mtawarira is set to play in a record 30th consecutive Rugby Championship match, surpassing the record held by wing Bryan Habana. “Beast” will also extend his record as the most-capped Springbok prop to 91 Tests.
Tomorrow’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 July 13, 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.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Beast Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Pieter-Steph Du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Damian de Allende