Etzebeth to lead weakened Springboks

Eben Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth

South Africa will field eight black players in a starting XV for the first time when they face Australia Saturday in the opening round of the 2019 Rugby Championship in Johannesburg.

Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina find themselves with different requirements two months out from the World Cup and their approach will vary sharply in the shortened competition starting this weekend.

Erasmus will name his team on Wednesday, with Saturday's Test scheduled for 17:05. It will be Etzebeth's 12 Test as Bok captain.

On the bench there is also a return to the Bok fold for a number of familiar faces as Erasmus casts his net wide with the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad in mind.

The Springbok pack for Saturday's match on the Highveld is hugely experienced, sharing 394 caps, and is expected to the lead the charge against the wily Wallaby forward unit.

Lizo Gqoboka, also uncapped and named among the replacements, is in line to make his first appearance for South Africa from the bench.

Rassie Erasmus, the SA Rugby Director of Rugby, said he and the Springbok team are excited for the start of the global season.

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"We want to win the Rugby Championship and we have a specific plan, which starts Saturday with the first Test against the Wallabies", Erasmus said. Cheika's squad were in a similar funk in the leadup to the 2015 tournament but ended up winning all three matches to claim the Championship before riding that momentum all the way to the World Cup final in England.

"I want to congratulate Rynhardt, Herschel and Lizo on their first inclusions in a Springbok matchday squad", said coach and former Springbok loose forward Rassie Erasmus.

"Herschel has got a great service from the base, and we all know that on a good day Elton Jantjies can really destroy teams when he's getting front-foot ball".

A good number of players, and especially those men who've come in from overseas, will have to prove to coach Rassie Erasmus they are good enough to play for the Springboks over the course of the next few weeks.

Springbok team: 15. Warrick Gelant, 14. Sbu Nkosi, 13. Jesse Kriel, 12. Elton Jantjies, 9. Herschel Jantjies, 8. Francois Louw, 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6.

Another debutant is 29-year-old Rynhardt Elstadt, who has become a hit in France since moving to Toulouse and completes a loose trio with a distinct punch in the physical stakes. Eben Etzebeth (c), 3. Trevor Nyakane (Bulls), 2. Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers) and 1. Vincent Koch (Saracens, England), 19. Marvin Orie, 20. Marcell Coetzee, 21.

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