Cardiff (United Kingdom) (AFP) – South Africa coach Allister Coetzee went for broke in a bid to end a dreadful 2016 on a high for the Springboks by dropping veteran wing Bryan Habana and including three debutants in his side to play Wales.
South Africa have lost seven of 11 Tests this year, equalling their record for the most defeats in a season since returning to international rugby in 1992 from apartheid-induced isolation.
They hit a new low last week as they suffered a maiden loss to Italy, going down 20-18 in Florence.
Habana returned from injury to score the opening try against Italy, taking his tally to 67 tries — just two shy of the all-time Test record — in 124 appearances.
This is the first time veteran wing Habana has been dropped in his international career. He doesn’t even feature on the bench.
Whenever fit and available, Habana has been included in Springbok matchday squads since making his debut in 2004.
Of his 124 Tests, the 33-year-old has made an impressive 122 starts.
Habana’s place against Wales is taken by debutant Jamba Ulengo, who featured in the tour-opening non-cap draw with the Barbarians at Wembley earlier this month.
The other new caps on show at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday will be Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Uzair Cassiem.
Another uncapped player — Jean-Luc du Preez — could make his debut off the bench.
Inside centre Janse van Rensburg, who also played against the Barbarians, takes over from Damian de Allende.
Back-row Cassiem, who didn’t feature against the Barabarians, replaces Willem Alberts, who was ruled out because of a neck problem.
A revamped backline sees the return of Faf de Klerk (scrum-half) and Elton Jantjies (fly-half) while Johan Goosen starts at fullback in place of Willie le Roux.
Up front, Lourens Adriaanse comes in at tighthead in place of Vincent Koch.
The total amount of caps amongst the backs is 40, the lowest since 1994.
Coetzee’s starting XV will feature 14 players who will be based in South Africa for next year’s Super Rugby tournament, with a further seven on the bench.
Explaining his team selection, Coetzee said he had to start looking towards the next World Cup in Japan, in three years’ time.
‘Forced their way in’
“We have a less experienced team, but I want to see some energy and an improved performance,” the under-pressure coach said.
“Our selection is also keeping in mind of the process and necessity to build towards 2019.
‘Uzair was impressive during our domestic competitions and he was man of the match in the Currie Cup final. He made a good impression during the build-up to the Barbarians match and has continued to work hard on this tour since re-joining us.
‘Jamba, Uzair and Rohan are examples of players who have forced their way into the squad through consistently performing well on the domestic scene and during training on tour, and now they are getting their opportunities to play for the Boks.”
Wales, who named their side earlier Thursday, only beat Japan 33-30 last week thanks to a Sam Davies drop-goal in the dying seconds.
South Africa have won 28 and lost two of their 31 Tests against Wales, with one draw.
But Coetzee added: “Recent matches between us have always delivered close fought battles and small point margins and I expect more of the same on Saturday.”
South Africa (15-1)
Johan Goosen; Ruan Combrinck, Francois Venter, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Jamba Ulengo; Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk; Warren Whiteley, Uzair Cassiem, Nizaam Carr; Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit; Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss (capt), Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Franco Mostert, Jean-Luc du Preez, Piet van Zyl, Pat Lambie, Lionel Mapoe
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