South Africa have made a mammoth 14 changes for Saturday’s second Test with Wales.
Jacques Nienaber’s men won the first game of the three-match series 32-29 thanks to a penalty with the last kick of the game from Damian Willemse.
But head coach Nienaber has ripped up his team from that Pretoria victory, with only lock Eben Etzebeth retaining his place for the second match in Bloemfontein.
Jacques Nienaber is set to make 14 changes to his South Africa side ahead of the second Test
Nienaber’s decision to make so many changes will prompt questions over whether he is devaluing international rugby in a bid to develop strength in depth.
But the reality is South Africa’s side for the second Test is still full of world-class talent.
World Cup-winning fly-half Handre Pollard returns and captains the side while Andre Esterhuizen – a star for Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership – starts at inside centre.
It will be Esterhuizen’s first Test since 2019. Flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit also returns from injury for the world champions with Etzebeth ready to win his 99th Springbok cap.
Siya Kolisi, Lood de Jager, Damian de Allende and Cheslin Kolbe are among a number of first-choice South Africa stars left out altogether.
World Cup-winning fly-half Handre Pollard will return as captain against Wales in Bloemfontein
Kurt-Lee Arendse, Evan Roos, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Ruan Nortje, Deon Fourie and Grant Williams are the six uncapped players in South Africa’s matchday 23.
‘We said from the outset we needed to strike a balance between giving our talented young players an opportunity to show what they can do at international level and winning,’ said Nienaber.
‘If one looks at the balance between players who have played at this level and those who have performed consistently well for their franchises and clubs, I think we have a nice balance in this squad.
‘A number of these players have been with us for a few seasons, while others travelled with us last season to Australia for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and the year-end tour.
‘Then there are a few new faces who showed during the season they have the potential to rise to this level. We are excited to see what they can do on Saturday.
Lock Eben Etzebeth is the only player set to retain his place in the Springbok starting line-up
‘Wales showed last week they are fighters and can go for the full 80 minutes and we are expecting nothing different from them this week.
‘This will certainly be a good test for the younger players in the group to measure themselves against some of the best players in Wales, some of whom played for the British & Irish Lions. ‘Everyone knows they will be in for a proper Test on Saturday.’
Nienaber continued: ‘We are delighted to see these players get an opportunity at this level and I believe if they play to their potential, they will bolster our depth going forward.
‘They are all very excited at the prospect of wearing the green and gold, but they also know what Wales will bring on the day and that every opportunity will be important.’
On handing the captaincy to Pollard, the Springbok coach said: ‘Handre is one of our most experienced players and has been part of our core leadership group for a number of years now.
Harlequins’ Andre Esterhuizen starts at centre after a fruitful year in the Gallagher Premiership
‘I’m sure he will slot into the role with ease.
‘Wales will certainly gain confidence from their performance last week and I have no doubt they will feel aggrieved by the fact that they lost out so narrowly.
‘We know we have to produce a top-class performance to win this weekend.
‘The set pieces are going to be a key area once again and we have identified the areas we need to improve on and have already started working on those facets of the game.
‘They (Wales) are a team that keep going until the final whistle, so we expect them to push us to the limit but we know what our standards are as a team and every player knows what is expected of him.
‘It is definitely going to take a full 80-minute effort to win the match and if we do well, hopefully the results will take of itself.’
Bears director Pat Lam is excited for South Africa to face Bristol at Ashton Gate in November
Meanwhile, a South Africa XV will take on Premiership side Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate on November 17 as part of the Springboks’ autumn tour of the northern hemisphere.
The historic occasion is a rare chance for one of rugby’s leading nations to take on a club side. Such fixtures were more commonplace in the amateur era.
It will be the first time Bristol have faced South Africa and only the sixth international opposition in the club’s 134-year history.
Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam said: ‘This is exactly one of the goals that Steve (Lansdown) and Chris (Booy) had for the Bears and our supporters at Ashton Gate – to have an opportunity to play a world-class international team. Why not start with the current world champions?
Wales will look to bounce back after losing at the death to South Africa 32-29 in the first Test
‘This is a massive opportunity for all our players to test themselves against one of the best, for our staff to put on an amazing, unforgettable event, and for our incredible supporters to welcome and host South African supporters from all over the world to Bristol and Ashton Gate.
‘November 17 will be a memorable night, make sure you lock it in to be there.’
Bristol Bears chairman Booy said: ‘This is a significant milestone for the club and really underlines how we far have come as the Bears. To host the world champions at our home is incredibly exciting and it will be an event that will go down in the history books.
‘South Africa are one of the world’s most iconic international teams with a vibrant and passionate fanbase. We’re grateful to the South Africa Rugby Union, Premiership Rugby and World Rugby for their support and co-operation in helping us to deliver this unique and historic fixture.’