Damian Willemse should be expected to start his first Test when the Boks take on England at Twickenham this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
A new-look side, to be named at 4pm (SA time) on Thursday, will get the Boks’ four-Test November tour underway.
As many as five overseas-based players are unavailable as this clash falls outside the international window, which will force the Boks into a reshuffle through the spine of the team.
At fullback, the presence of Willie le Roux will be sorely missed by the Boks, but it opens the door for Willemse to make his run-on debut in the No 15 jersey after featuring off the bench on three occasions during the Rugby Championship.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has spoken at length about the fact that he believes the versatile Willemse should be initially integrated into Test rugby at fullback, but this will be his first opportunity to enjoy an extended run in this position.
Gio Aplon is the other fullback option for the Boks, but he has spent hardly any time with the team after earning a somewhat surprise call-up for the first time this year.
In the absence of France-based Cheslin Kolbe, fit-again S’bu Nkosi is the obvious replacement on the right wing, and he will start his first Bok match since the third and final Test against England in June.
At scrumhalf, the loss of the influential Sale-based Faf de Klerk is a big blow for the Boks, and has effectively left Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier in a shoot-out for the No 9 jersey.
Although the word from London suggests that both players have run at scrumhalf this week, it’s likely that the slightly more experienced Van Zyl will get the nod to start ahead of Papier.
Among the forwards, the unavailability of Franco Mostert is set to prove rather disruptive in more ways than one.
Not only will be the Boks be without their first-choice No 5 lock, but it’s also expected to force Pieter-Steph du Toit to shift from blindside flank, where he performed so impressively during the Rugby Championship.
With Du Toit set to move back to the second row, there will be a forced reshuffle in the loose trio. It would make sense to see a fit-again Warren Whiteley start at No 8, with Duane Vermeulen completing a caretaker job at blindside flank.
While the Boks have been forced into some considerable changes, England’s tally of unavailable players has risen to nearly 20.
It’s expected that Eddie Jones will field a side that also bears little resemblance to the team that fronted up at Newlands, with Chris Ashton quite possibly set to return on the wing.
Springboks (possible) – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 S’bu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7Duane Vermeulen, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
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