Hardworking prop Ruan Dreyer will make his debut for the Springboks on Saturday in the final Castle Lager Incoming Series Test against France in Johannesburg, while the experienced scrumhalf Francois Hougaard and outside centre Jesse Kriel both return to the starting team.
Dreyer, who will become Springbok number 886 when he takes to the field, replaces Frans Malherbe in the front row in one of two changes to the starting pack that defeated the French team last week in Durban.
The other change is at flank as Oupa Mohoje is unavailable after he took a blow to the head last week. His place is filled by 21-year-old Jean-Luc du Preez, who came on as the replacement flank at Growthpoint Kings Park. Jaco Kriel has been selected on the bench.
In the backline, Hougaard replaces Cronje, who was not considered after he had shown symptoms of a delayed concussion. This will be Hougaard’s 42nd Test cap for the Springboks, while Rudy Paige comes into the squad as replacement No 9.
The only other change to the starting team is at outside centre, with Jesse Kriel back after sitting out last week’s Test a result of a bump to the head in the first match two weeks ago in Pretoria.
“I said earlier in the week that we would keep changes in the starting team to a minimum because we have huge respect for this powerful French side,” said Coetzee.
“The inclusion of Ruan in the starting team gives us an important opportunity to build capacity in the tighthead position. This is a very important position and it is great to have players such as Coenie Oosthuizen and Steven Kitshoff coming off the bench as a combination, while Ruan will start next to his Emirates Lions hooker in Malcolm Marx.
“The same applies for Jaco Kriel, who has fully recovered from his knee injury and he was very good in training the past three weeks. He deserves his chance in the match 23 and he is very eager to play. Jaco was in brilliant form before he got injured and I am sure he will make a huge impact off the bench.
“Jesse had an outstanding game in the first match in Pretoria and he really combined well with Jan Serfontein in the midfield before he was forced to leave the field. The retention of combinations is important because that will add to our continuity.
“The selection of the centre pairing was really a tough task and Lionel Mapoe is perhaps unlucky to lose out on the match 23. He played well in Durban but Jesse was also very good next to Jan Serfontein in Pretoria and my decision is based on developing combinations. Lionel will however get the opportunity to play for the SA ‘A’ side against the French Barbarians on Friday in Soweto.”
Coetzee once more cautioned his side to expect a huge onslaught from the French: “Their camp is clear about it and the players realise there is no place for complacency.
“This is their last match of the season and they will be highly motivated to finish on a high, so they will yet again pose a serious threat. We will have to work extremely hard against a very physical French side who will again test us in all departments,” said Coetzee.
The Springbok side to face France in Johannesburg:
15. Andries Coetzee (Emirates Lions), 2 caps, 0 points
14. Raymond Rhule (Toyota Cheetahs), 2, 0
13. Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls), 18, 20 (4t)
12. Jan Serfontein (Vodacom Bulls), 28, 20 (4t)
11. Courtnall Skosan (Emirates Lions), 2, 0
10. Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions), 13, 115 (1t, 19c, 24p)
9. Francois Hougaard (Worcester Warriors, England), 41, 25 (5t)
8. Warren Whiteley (Emirates Lions, captain), 17, 15 (3t)
7. Jean-Luc du Preez (Cell C Sharks), 3, 0
6. Siya Kolisi (DHL Stormers), 15, 5 (1t)
5. Franco Mostert (Emirates Lions), 9, 0
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), 56, 10 (2t)
3. Ruan Dreyer (Emirates Lions), 0, 0
2. Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), 4, 0
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 89, 10 (2t)
16. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 7, 0
17. Steven Kitshoff (Bordeaux Bègles, France), 12, 0
18. Coenie Oosthuizen (Cell C Sharks), 25, 20 (4t)
19. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), 22, 15 (3T)
20. Jaco Kriel (Emirates Lions), 7, 0
21. Rudy Paige (Vodacom Bulls), 7, 0
22. Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France), 55, 132 (10t, 5c, 21p, 3d)
23. Dillyn Leyds (DHL Stormers), 2, 0
Stats and facts:
· The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 302. There are 106 caps in the backline with 196 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 137 caps.
· The average caps per player in the backline are 15, the forwards 25 while the players on the bench average 17.
· The average age of the starting 15 is 26.
· The tallest player in the squad is Eben Etzebeth (2.04m) and the shortest Rudy Paige (1.67m). The heaviest player is Steven Kitshoff (125kg) and the lightest player is Rudy Paige (80kg).
· The Test at Emirates Airline Park will be the 42nd Test match against France. The Springboks and France have played in four Test matches at this venue since 1958. The Springboks lost all four encounters.
· The overall Springbok record for those four Test matches: P 4; W 0, L4; PF: 59; PA: 78; TF: 5; TA: 4; Average score: 15-20. Win%: 0%.
· South Africa’s record against France at home: P: 23; W: 12; L: 6; D: 5; PF: 512; PA: 351; TF: 53; TA: 31; Win%: 52%.
· South Africa’s overall record against France: P: 41; W: 24; L: 11; D: 6; PF: 857; PA: 607; TF: 97; TA: 55; Win%: 59%.
· Tendai Mtawarira will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok prop, with 90 caps in this position. He is the third most experienced Springbok forward – only Victor Matfield and John Smit have played in more Test matches for South Africa.
· Frans Steyn needs 18 points to reach 150 points in Test rugby.
· Should Steven Kitshoff be used off the bench he will equal the record for most Test matches from the bench (13) before his first start in a Test match. The other two Springboks who co-hold the record are Coenie Oosthuizen (first start against Scotland, 2013) and Siya Kolisi (first start against Samoa, 2015).
· Three tries by South Africa will bring up the 100th try in 104 years of Test rugby against France and one penalty goal by South Africa will bring up the 100th penalty goal as well.
· The referee is Angus Gardner of Australia. He was born on 24 August, 1984 in Sydney, Australia and made his Test debut as a referee in November, 2011 in the match between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.
· To date, he has refereed 10 Test matches. This Test will be his third which involve the Springboks. Of the previous two Tests, one was lost and one won.
· The Assistant Referees are Ben O’Keeffe and Glen Jackson, both of New Zealand, while Rowan Kitt of England will again officiate as TMO.
· Emirates Airline Park has a seating capacity of 61 519.
Springbok Test record holders at Emirates Airline Park:
· Most points: 28 by Gavin Johnson (3t, 5c, 1p) against Western Samoa, 13 April, 1995.
· Most tries: Four by Chester Williams against Western Samoa, 10 June, 1995 and by Jongi Nokwe against Australia, 30 August, 2008.
· Most conversions: Nine by Butch James against Argentina, 9 August, 2008.
· Most penalty goals: Seven by Percy Montgomery against France, 16 June, 20061 and by Louis Koen against Scotland, 14 June, 2003.
· Most drop goals: Two by Joel Stransky against New Zealand, 24 June, 1995 and by Jannie de Beer against New Zealand, 19 July, 1997.
Springbok Test career record holders at Emirates Airline Park:
· Most points: 86 by Percy Montgomery (2t, 11c, 18p) in nine Tests.
· Most tries: Eight by Chester Williams in five Tests.
· Most conversions: 12 by Butch James in three Tests.
· Most penalty goals: 18 by Percy Montgomery in nine Tests.
· Most drop goals: Two by Joel Stransky (five Tests) and Jannie de Beer (two Tests).
France Test record holders at Emirates Airline Park:
· Most points: 27 by Gerald Merceron (1t, 2c, 6p), 16 June, 2001.
· Most tries: One by four players in four Tests between 1958 and 2001.
· Most conversions: Two by Guy Camberabero, 29 July, 1967 and by Gerald Merceron, 16 June, 2001.
· Most penalty goals: Six by Gerald Merceron, 16 June, 2001.
· Most drop goals: Two by Guy Camberabero, 29 July, 1967.