Springboks: Andre Esterhuizen starts as Jasper Wiese returns in tweaked line-up for Italy Test

Andre Esterhuizen for South Africa Credit: Alamy
Andre Esterhuizen for South Africa Credit: Alamy

Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has made several changes to his side’s matchday 23 to face Italy after the narrow loss to France in Marseille last weekend.

Jasper Wiese returns to the starting line-up for their Test against the Azzurri after withdrawing for the France game late last week.

Alongside the Leicester Tiger is Franco Mostert, ahead of Pieter-Steph du Toit, who will receive a ban this week for his red card against France, while Siya Kolisi leads the Springboks from the side of the scrum.

There is a new second-row pairing as Stormers duo Salmaan Moerat and Marvin Orie start, with Eben Etzebeth dropping to the bench. Meanwhile, the front-row of Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Fran Malherbe will start for the second game in a row.

New midfield pairing

Damian Willemse starts at fly-half again, with Faf de Klerk at scrum-half after a decent showing against France. Damian de Allende shifts to outside centre and pairs up with Andre Esterhuizen, who starts at 12.

Nienaber has kept the same back-three as last week as full-back Willie le Roux starts alongside the elusive duo of Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse.

Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch make for powerful front-row replacements, while Etzebeth is joined by Kwagga Smith and Evan Roos as the remaining substitutes in the 6-2 split.

Scrum-half Cobus Reinach is joined by recently capped Manie Libbok on the bench as backline replacements.

Nienaber believes injuries and disciplinary hearings provide the opportunity to reward players who are training well.

“A couple of players have been training very hard in the last few weeks and deserve a chance to start, and Lood’s injury and Pieter-Steph’s disciplinary hearing opened the door for us to give them an opportunity,” said Nienaber.

“Salmaan and Marvin are both DHL Stormers players, so they have been playing together for a while, and they are very hungry for game time, so we are looking forward to what they bring in the game.

“It’s also good to have Jasper back against the physical Italian pack, and we know that Kwagga will spark something different when he takes the field. Evan also gets a chance off the bench and his skills will work well with Kwagga’s in the loose trio, while Manie earns another run after making his debut last week.

“Manie’s versatility will also come in handy, as he can cover most positions in the backline, and with Cobus on the bench and several experienced backs in the backline, he will have enough guidance to be able play to his game.”

The coach is expecting Italy to have a lot of support, particularly after their first win against Australia last weekend.

“Italy’s victory against Australia will boost their confidence immensely going into this match, and we are expecting them to draw a lot of energy from their home crowd,” he said.

“They defeated Wales away in the Six Nations and tested Scotland as well, so we are under no illusions as to the challenge that lies ahead. Italy have shown before what a force they can be at home by defeating the Boks 20-18 in Florence, and they will draw confidence from that as well.

“We have been working hard on improving the areas of the game that let us down in the last two matches, and we are determined to get onto the right side of the scoreboard after very narrow defeats against the first and second ranked teams in the world.”

Complete performance required

Nienaber believes an 80-minute performance is essential against a team of Italy’s quality.

“Their forwards are physical, they have a skillful backline and a good defensive system, and they play with a lot of confidence, so we know what we are in for. We have to deliver a quality performance for the full 80 minutes,” he added.

“We believe we are on the right track after coming close against Ireland and France, and if we can produce a strong showing up front and be a little more accurate in our execution, we know we can turn things around on tour.”

The team

Springboks: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Damian de Allende, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Evan Roos, 22 Cobus Reinach, 23 Manie Libbok

READ MORE: Opinion: Springboks have built some depth during challenging year

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