Pieter-Steph du Toit will captain a young Springbok team featuring seven uncapped players in the starting line-up against Wales on Saturday evening (SA time) in Washington DC.
Du Toit (lock) will lead South Africa for the first time when they take on the Welsh in this once-off international, which falls outside the Test window.
The seven players in the starting team who will be making their debut in the United States capital are Travis Ismaiel and Makazole Mapimpi (wings), Andre Esterhuizen (centre), Ivan van Zyl (scrumhalf), Kwagga Smith (flank), Jason Jenkins (lock) and Ox Nche (prop).
A further six players with no Test experience were included on the bench, namely Akker van der Merwe (hooker), Thomas du Toit (prop), Marvin Orie (lock), Sikhumbuzo Notshe (loose forward), Embrose Papier (scrumhalf) and Robert du Preez (flyhalf).
If Du Preez comes on as a substitute, it will be the first time in SA history that there will be a set of a Springbok father with three Springbok sons – Robert (snr), Jean-Luc, Dan and Robert (jnr). The Du Preez’s will also become the fourth set of three Springbok brothers.
Erasmus has opted for an experienced core of players – Jesse Kriel (centre), Elton Jantjies (flyhalf), Oupa Mohoje (flank), Du Toit (lock) and Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker) – to provide the necessary calmness and guidance. He said he is looking forward to see the Springboks take one one of Europe’s most powerful sides.
“As coaches, we are tremendously excited about the prospect of seeing some of our best young players getting the opportunity to play at this level,” said Erasmus.
Wales had the upper hand over the Springboks in their last two encounters, both played in Cardiff, and according to Erasmus, the Welsh will be especially motivated to continue with that trend.
“Wales have a very solid and effective kicking strategy and their cohesive forward and set-piece play are some of their main strong points. However, I do believe that we have picked a match-day squad that will be able to compete very strongly,” added Erasmus.
The match kicks off at 23h00 SA time and will be televised live on SuperSport 1.
The Springbok team to face Wales in Washington (in order of name, franchise, Test caps and points):
15. Curwin Bosch (Cell C Sharks, 1, 0)
14. Travis Ismaiel (Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
13. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls, 29, 40 – 8t)
12. Andre Esterhuizen (Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
11. Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
10. Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions, 23, 203 – 2t, 38c, 39p)
9. Ivan van Zyl (Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
8. Dan du Preez (Cell C Sharks, 3, 0)
7. Oupa Mohoje (Toyota Cheetahs 18, 0)
6. Kwagga Smith (Emirates Lions, uncapped)
5. Pieter-Steph du Toit (captain, DHL Stormers, 32, 20 – 4t)
4. Jason Jenkins (Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
3. Wilco Louw (DHL Stormers, 5, 0)
2. Chiliboy Ralepelle (Cell C Sharks 23, 5 – 1t)
1. Ox Nche (prop, Toyota Cheetahs, uncapped)
16. Akker van der Merwe (Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
17. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers, 23, 5 – 1t)
18. Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
19. Marvin Orie (Emirates Lions, uncapped)
20. Sikhumbuzo Notshe (DHL Stormers, uncapped)
21. Embrose Papier (Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
22. Robert du Preez (Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
23. Warrick Gelant (Vodacom Bulls, 2, 5 – 1t)
*The three non-playing reserves are Frans Malherbe, Nizaam Carr and Cameron Wright.
Facts and stats:
The match in Washington will only be the second time that South Africa will face Wales on neutral ground outside of a Rugby World Cup. Previously, the two rivals played at Wembley Stadium in London during the construction of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. On that occasion, on 14 November 1998, Gary Teichmann’s Springbok side won 28-20.
It will only be the third time that the Springboks will play a Test match in the USA. In 1981, Wynand Claassen’s Springboks beat the USA Eagles (38-7) in Glenville, and in 2001 the Springboks, under captain André Vos, won their Test match against the USA by 43-20 in Houston.
The Robert F Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington DC, with a capacity of 45 596, is a multi-sport facility for both baseball and football. Amongst others, it has also hosted boxing matches, marathon finishes and concerts. The Springboks have never played here before.
South Africa’s overall record against Wales: P: 33; W: 28; L: 4; D: 1; PF: 872; PA: 510; TF: 106; TA: 42; Average score: 26-15. Win%: 85%.
The following players will make their Test debut: Travis Ismaiel, who will celebrate his 26th birthday on match day, Makazole Mapimpi, André Esterhuizen, Ivan van Zyl, Kwagga Smith, Jason Jenkins and Ox Nché, while there are six reserves on the bench who could also make their debut.
Only seven players in the squad have played against Wales before. They are Dan du Preez, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Wilco Louw, Oupa Mohojé and Chiliboy Ralepelle.
Should Robert du Preez be used as a substitute, it will be the first time in Springbok history that there will be a set of a Springbok father with three Springbok sons – Robert (snr), Jean-Luc, Dan and Robert (jnr). The Du Preez’s will also become the fourth set of three Springbok brothers. The previous three sets were the Luyt brothers (1912), the Bekker brothers (1960) and the Du Plessis brothers (1984).
The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 134. The Springbok record for the least experienced Springbok starting XV is 40 v France in Durban in 1993.
There are 53 caps in the backline with 81 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 25 caps.
The average caps per player in the backline are 8, the forwards 10 while the players on the bench average 3. The average age of the starting 15 is 24.
The match officials:
The referee is Matthew Carley of England. He was born on 21 December 1984 in Dover and made his international debut as a referee on 25 June, 2016 in Sacramento, California in a Test between the USA and Russia. This Test will be his first with South Africa involved.
The Assistant Referees are Alexandre Ruiz of France and Frank Murphy of Ireland. The TMO will be David Grashoff of England.