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Springboks name three new caps as Lions warm-up begins with Georgia clash

The World Cup winners haven’t played a Test match in 19 months.

Aphelele Fassi and Roko Specman start against Georgia.
Aphelele Fassi and Roko Specman start against Georgia.

SPRINGBOKS HEAD COACH Jacques Nienaber has handed the exciting Aphelele Fassi and Rosko Specman their Test debuts on the wings for Friday evening’s clash with Georgia in Pretoria ahead of the Lions series.

In what will be the Springboks’ first game since the 2019 World Cup final 19 months ago, Nienaber is also in line to give powerful Leicester Tigers back row Jasper Wiese his first cap off the bench.

23-year-old Fassi – usually a fullback – has been in thrilling form for the Sharks, while 32-year-old former South Africa 7s sensation Specman has enjoyed a successful permanent move into 15s rugby with the Bulls and now the Cheetahs.

Otherwise, the Boks have gone for a fairly established team for this clash with Georgia as Siya Kolisi captains from a back row that also includes reigning World Rugby player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kwagga Smith.

Toulon’s Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert provide an experienced second row pairing, while another World Cup winner, Bongi Mbonambi, is at the heart of a powerful front row also including Trevor Nyakane and Ox Nché.

Montpellier pair Cobus Reinach and Handré Pollard are in the halfbacks, while Frans Steyn and Jesse Kriel will provide the ballast in midfield. The highly-experienced Willie le Roux ties together the back three with debutants Fassi and Specman.

Nienaber has opted for a traditional 5/3 bench split rather than the 6/2 that the Boks so successfully used at the World Cup, but the likes of Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, and Wiese ensure there is still a huge amount of firepower to call on.

Scrum-half Herschel Jantjies is on the bench after re-testing cleared him of Covid-19 this week, but Sbu Nkosi and Vincent Koch miss out after their positive results, while Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi were unavailable due to being deemed close contacts.

“We have selected the best team with an eye on what we would like to achieve in this Test against Georgia and we believe that we have a good balance with a number of experienced campaigners and a few young players who have made a strong statement this season,” said Nienaber.

“Most of the players in this squad are World Cup winners, while others have been part of the national squad for a few seasons, and this will be invaluable against a team that boast the passion that Georgia exhibit.

“We are also excited to see what the uncapped players bring to the table after impressive performances for their franchises in the last few seasons.”

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Springboks (v Georgia):

15. Willie le Roux
14. Rosko Specman
13. Jesse Kriel
12. Frans Steyn
11. Apelele Fassi
10. Handré Pollard
9. Cobus Reinach

1. Ox Nché
2. Bongi Mbonambi
3. Trevor Nyakane
4. Eben Etzebeth
5. Franco Mostert
6. Siya Kolisi (captain)
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit
8. Kwagga Smith

Replacements:

16. Malcolm Marx
17. Steven Kitshoff
18. Frans Malherbe
19. Marvin Orie
20. Jasper Wiese
21. Herschel Jantjies
22. Elton Jantjies
23. Damian Willemse.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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