Heyneke Meyer has selected Handré Pollard to start at flyhalf against Scotland in PE on Saturday, with six players of colour – including three black Africans – in the match-day squad.
Earlier in the week, it emerged that Saru president Regan Hoskins had instructed the Bok coach to select more players of colour, African black players in particular. This message has been taken to heart.
Meyer has also made a brave call to select an uncapped player at No 10. Pollard recently led the SA U20 side to the final of the Junior World Championship in New Zealand. He has since returned to South Africa and been included in the senior squad.
Meyer has made it clear throughout the June Test series that Pollard would have featured sooner if not for his commitments to the Junior Boks. Now that he is available, and Morné Steyn (who has returned to France) and Johan Goosen (knee injury) are not, Pollard will start for the Boks at No 10.
A host of changes have been made to the side that edged Wales 31-30 last week. Many of these changes are enforced, as seven players – Gurthrö Steenkamp (Toulouse), Schalk Brits (Saracens), Bakkies Botha (Toulon), Francois Louw (Bath), Morné Steyn (Stade Français), Wynand Olivier (Montpellier) and Bryan Habana (Toulon) – returned to their clubs in France and England after the game in Nelspruit, while several more have succumbed to injuries.
On Wednesday, it was confirmed that Flip van der Merwe has been ruled out for the rest of the season. Van der Merwe injured knee ligaments in the battle against Wales in Nelspruit and will be sidelined for the next six months.
Lood de Jager will replace Van der Merwe at No 4 lock this Saturday, and win his first start for South Africa. A neck injury to loosehead prop Beast Mtawarira will allow Coenie Oosthuizen a rare opportunity to start.
Other changes to the starting side see Lwazi Mvovo replacing Bryan Habana on the left wing, and Schalk Burger and Marcel Coetzee packing down on the flanks. Willem Alberts wasn't considered for the game in Port Elizabeth because of a concussion.
Hooker Adriaan Strauss makes a timely return from suspension to take his place on the bench. Another player who is set to make a significant return is Trevor Nyakane. Last August, the prop was suspended by the Boks after a series of disciplinary transgressions. He hasn't played Test rugby since.
The departure of the England- and France-based Boks will ensure that several other fringe players receive opportunities, albeit from the bench, this Saturday. Flank Tebogo Mohoje, lock Stephan Lewies, prop Marcel van der Merwe and flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff are all in line to make their international debuts.
'All of them deserve this chance,' said Meyer. 'Oupa still played Varsity Cup and Vodacom Cup rugby earlier this season before he got an opportunity to play Super Rugby for the Cheetahs because of injuries. He took his chance and now he’s on the cusp of making his Test debut.
'Marnitz and Marcel have shone for their franchises this year and patiently waited in the last couple of weeks, always working hard and putting in everything at our training sessions. Stephan only joined us on Monday, but he made an impression already at our training camp in Durban last month and slotted in without any problems this week.'
Other changes to the bench see Francois Hougaard and Zane Kirchner included. Both men are yet to feature for the Boks in 2014.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Marcel Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Tebogo 'Oupa' Mohoje, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Zane Kirchner.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images