The Springboks are determined to send Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Franco Mostert and Elton Jantjies off with a convincing victory against Italy. JON CARDINELLI in Padua reports.
The Boks will tackle Italy at the Stadio Euganeo this Saturday. Thereafter, they will wave goodbye to Vermeulen, Louw, Mostert and Jantjies as they return to their respective clubs in Europe and Japan. These four players will be unavailable for the final Test of the season against Wales, as the game in Cardiff falls outside of the World Rugby-sanctioned window.
As Bok captain Eben Ezebeth pointed out on Friday, the game against Italy represents one final opportunity for the overseas-based players to feature in 2017. Vermeulen, Louw, Mostert and Jantjies may only get another chance to wear the Bok jersey in the three-Test series against England in June 2018.
‘Four guys are leaving the team this week. It would be nice to send them off to Japan and Europe with a victory, to give them a good Springbok memory,’ Etzebeth said.
‘We’re looking forward to this game. It’s the second-last match of the year. For some, who will go back to their clubs next week, it’s the last Test. In that way, it’s special.’
The Bok captain didn’t waste any time talking about the recent performance against France. South Africa held on to win 18-17 in Paris last week, and in doing so ended a five-game winless streak.
‘The victory,’ Etzebeth said when pushed for a comment about the team’s improvement at the Stade de France. The Boks lost to Ireland by a record margin the week before.
Bongi Mbonambi will start ahead of Malcolm Marx at hooker, as the latter is nursing a shoulder injury. Pieter-Steph du Toit has recovered from concussion and will replace Siya Kolisi in the starting side at blindside flank.
Etzebeth felt that the inclusion of these two players will aid the Bok lineout.
‘I went up to Bongi the other day and told him that he really deserves this opportunity,’ the skipper said of Mbonambi’s elevation. The game against Italy will mark the Stormers hooker’s first Test start.
‘He’s been playing well the whole season at the Stormers. Good lineout-thrower. Massive ball-carrier. Aggressive player. He’s very eager to get going on Saturday.’
Du Toit, who usually partners Etzebeth in the Stormers second row, should bring something new to the back-row dynamic.
‘He brings an extra lineout option and offers a few more kilograms,’ noted Etzebeth. ‘Good ball-carrier. We’re definitely going to miss Siya Kolisi, who went home for the birth of his child. Pieter-Steph brings something different, though.’
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