Juan Smith will complete a remarkable return to international rugby when he runs out for the Springboks against Argentina in Salta on Saturday, in the second Test of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship (kick-off 21h40 SA time).
Smith’s inclusion at flank is one of three changes to the starting XV, with a further four changes on the bench.
Gurthrö Steenkamp (prop) and Eben Etzebeth (lock) will start in the tight five, with Tendai Mtawarira and Bakkies Botha moving to the bench. Marcell Coetzee will join them amongst the replacements after coming in as a late substitute for the injured Willem Alberts last weekend.
The final change to the team, which beat Argentina by 13-6 last weekend in Pretoria, is the inclusion of Lwazi Mvovo on the bench.
“We have a couple of options at blindside flank, but we’ve decided that this will be a great opportunity to give Juan a chance,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“If it wasn’t for an injury which kept him out in June, he would’ve played a part in the Castle Lager Incoming Series. He was one of Toulon’s best players after more than two years out of the game and helped them to win two major competitions.
“Apart from experience and leadership, Juan is a superb ball-carrier and also brilliant at the back of the lineouts, where we missed Willem Alberts last week. Our lineouts are an important attacking platform and we need to improve this week – I’m sure Juan will add another dimension.”
Meyer added: “It’s also wonderful to have Eben back to full fitness and he’ll slot in at lock without any problems.
“’Beast’ recently returned from an injury which kept him out for some time and it was decided to rotate him and Gurthrö mainly because of the short turn-around after our travel to Argentina.”
Saturday’s Test will be the Springboks’ first visit to Salta, in the north west of Argentina.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge. Although we were happy with the result in Pretoria, we were not happy with the performance and this is an opportunity to show improvement against a tough opponent away from home,” said Meyer.
The Springbok team to face Argentina in Salta is:
15. Willie le Roux 16 tests 35 points
14. Cornal Hendricks 4 tests 10 points
13. Damian de Allende 1 test 0 points
12. Jean de Villiers (captain) 97 tests 125 points
11. Bryan Habana 98 tests 275 points
10. Handré Pollard 2 tests 18 points
9. Ruan Pienaar 77 tests 135 points
8. Duane Vermeulen 20 tests10 points
7. Juan Smith 69 tests 60 points
6. Francois Louw 31 tests 25 points
5. Lood de Jager 4 tests 10 points
4. Eben Etzebeth 24 tests 0 points
3. Jannie du Plessis 55 tests 5 points
2. Bismarck du Plessis (vice-captain) 61 tests 45 points
1. Gurthrö Steenkamp 51 tests, 30 points
16. Adriaan Strauss 35 tests 25 points
17. Tendai Mtawarira 56 tests 10 points
18. Frans Malherbe 3 tests 0 points
19. Bakkies Botha 80 35 points
20. Marcell Coetzee 17 tests 10 points
21. Francois Hougaard 28 tests 20 points
22. Morné Steyn 57 tests 663 points
23. Lwazi Mvovo 9 tests 15 points
Stats and facts:
•The Springbok starting team boasts a total of 610 Test caps (295 in the backline and 315 in the forwards), while there a further 285 caps worth of experience on the bench.
•South Africa and Argentina have played each other 18 times since 1993, with the Springboks winning 17 Tests and one was drawn. The Springboks have scored 695 points and 85 tries and conceded 330 points and 30 tries for an average score of 39-18.
•South Africa and Argentina last met on 16 August 2014 at Loftus Versfeld in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship. The Boks beat Argentina 13-6 in dreadful conditions.
•Jean de Villiers will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok centre, with 82 Tests in this position. He will also extend his own SA record of 45 Rugby Championship games and will captain the Springboks for a 26th time.
•Bryan Habana will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok wing, with 97 Tests in this position. He will also extend his record of eight career appearances against Argentina and if he scores a try, will extend his record of 55 Test tries for South Africa as well as his record of 17 tries in his Castle Lager Rugby Championship career.
•If he goes on and plays flyhalf, Morné Steyn will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok flyhalf, with 55 Tests in this position. If he scores a try, he will also extend his record of eight Test tries as a flyhalf for South Africa.
•If he scores a try Bismarck du Plessis will extend his own record of nine Test tries for South Africa. Bismarck and his brother Jannie will extend their record of playing together in 35 Tests for the Springboks.
•Juan Smith last played a Test for South Africa on 27 November, 2010 against England at Twickenham. If he scores a try, Smith will become sole record holder of most tries for South Africa as a flank (11), a record he currently shares with Schalk Burger.
•Ruan Pienaar will be playing in his 50th Test for South Africa at scrumhalf. He also played 15 Tests at flyhalf, ten at fullback and three on the wing.
•The referee is Steve Walsh of Australia (formerly from New Zealand). This will be his 17th Test involving South Africa. From the previous 16 games the Springboks have won 12, drawn three and lost once. Walsh will also equal the record of Alain Rolland of Ireland who also officiated in 17 Tests involving South Africa.
•This will be the Springboks’ first Test at the Estadio Padre Ernest Martearena in Salta.