Boks pack upsized for next match

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira will be playing his 100th test for the Springboks in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira will be playing his 100th test for the Springboks in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

Test rugby‚ it is often suggested‚ is a game of inches and in full anticipation of an England backlash in the second test‚ the Springboks have slightly upsized their pack.

The introduction of Frans Malherbe at tighthead and Pieter-Steph du Toit at flank will add five and six centimetres respectively to the Bok forward unit‚ as Wilco Louw and Jean-Luc du Preez vacate the starting team.

On the bench Jesse Kriel makes a return‚ while Elton Jantjies drops out.

“With Jesse we just feel that, when the game opened up last week, we needed some speed out there and Jesse obviously covers centre and the outside backs as well‚” Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said.

Malherbe returns after recovering from a neck injury that made him a long-term absentee.

The last time he played for the Boks was against France in Durban last year.

He cracks the nod at the expense of Louw, who has had to carry a heavy workload this season.

In Malherbe’s absence at the Stormers‚ Louw has had to see more combat than he should have.

“Wilco has been playing every single minute so I guess he is pretty punch-drunk‚” Erasmus said.

Du Toit makes a return to the starting team, but not in his customary position in the second row.

He is quite adept on the side of the scrum, but it is his wrecking-ball runs and robust defence that earn him the nod in the loose trio.

Du Preez, who was less influential in the first test in Johannesburg, drops to the bench.

With Jantjies dropping out‚ Willie le Roux will provide cover at flyhalf.

As expected, Tendai Mtawarira, who will play his 100th test for the Springboks tomorrow, is also in the starting line-up.

He will become the eighth prop to play in 100 tests and the sixth Springbok to reach the milestone after Percy Montgomery (in 2008)‚ John Smit‚ Victor Matfield (both in 2010)‚ Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers (both in 2014).

“Much like a typical front-rower‚ Beast is not someone who likes the spotlight‚” Erasmus said.

“However‚ his contribution to Springbok rugby during the past decade has been enormous and I want to congratulate him on reaching 100 test caps.

“It is a special achievement and, while he deserves the accolades‚ I know he will be totally focused on the most important job‚ and that is to face an extremely determined England side.”

Malherbe also paid tribute to his teammate. “I think it is an amazing achievement for Beast. I’m very proud of him,” he said.

“What an honour to play alongside him in his 100th test – he was there when I made my debut.”