Springboks select Jantjies at 10, Willemse at 15 for Wales
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa selected Elton Jantjies at flyhalf and Damian Willemse at fullback and included uncapped forwards Salmaan Moerat and Elrigh Louw on the bench for the first test against Wales this weekend.
Jantjies stepped up to the starting lineup on Tuesday after regular No. 10 Handré Pollard finished his club season in France only last week by helping Montpellier win its first Top 14 title.
Willemse is in the team in place of veteran fullback Willie le Roux, who is among the reserves for the first of three tests against the Welsh.
Otherwise, coach Jacques Nienaber’s first team selection of 2022 contains many Springboks regulars: Captain Siya Kolisi will lead the team with Franco Mostert the other flanker and Jasper Wiese at No. 8. Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager team up in the second row and the backline includes center partners Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am, wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, and Faf de Klerk at scrumhalf, all Rugby World Cup winners in 2019.
No. 8 Duane Vermeulen and utility back Frans Steyn are out injured.
Nienaber’s decision to give Moerat and Louw a chance at their test debuts comes after strong domestic seasons for both, culminating in Moerat’s Cape Town-based Stormers beating Louw’s Pretoria-based Bulls in the final of the United Rugby Championship. Moerat covers the lock position and Louw can play at flanker or No. 8.
The Springboks will go with a forward-heavy bench in a 6-2 split. Le Roux and backup scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies are the only backs among the reserves.
“We are expecting a hard grind of a test,” Nienaber said.
The first match of the three-test series is at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
Wales will name its team on Thursday.
South Africa: Damian Willemse, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk; Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nché. Reserves: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Salmaan Moerat, Elrigh Louw, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Willie le Roux.
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