Rassie rings changes

Damian Willemse during the Springbok open training session and fan engagement at Florida Park in Cape Town earlier in August
Damian Willemse during the Springbok open training session and fan engagement at Florida Park in Cape Town earlier in August
Image: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images

In keeping with his strategy to spread game time in his squad‚ Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has named two uncapped players in his match day 23 for Saturday’s opening Rugby Championships clash against Argentina at King’s Park.

Wildly gifted Stormers utility back Damian Willemse and flank Marco van Staden have been introduced to the bench in a team that sees sweeping changes from the one that did duty in the third Test against England in June.

The coach did not say it in so many words on Thursday‚ but this is an evolving side and more changes are on the cards by the time the team host the Wallabies and the All Blacks in their last two matches in the tournament.

There will be pressure to win those home Tests and Erasmus was remarkably precise when asked how many changes he expects to make to Saturday’s starting team for those engagements at the climax of the tournament.

“Four‚ yes four‚” he said. Some of those changes will come as a result of some players’ commitments overseas‚ but there will also be a natural culling process.

For Saturday‚ Erasmus has had to rearrange his back row in the absence of hulking No 8 Duane Vermeulen.

Former captain Warren Whiteley starts at No 8‚ current captain Siya Kolisi at seven and Francois Louw is in the fetcher’s role at six.

Erasmus stressed the need for balance in his back row.

Due to limited activity in recent weeks‚ the coach does not expect Louw to last the full 80 minutes.

Another player he expects to substitute is returning former captain and lock Eben Etzebeth.

“It is nice to have a leadership group in the pack that consists of Warren‚ Siya‚ PieterSteph [du Toit] and Eben, who have all captained the Boks‚ and Francois Louw, who captains Bath.

“We are starting to build some experience there.”

Meanwhile, Argentina have picked prop Juan Figallo, relaxing a policy of choosing only home-based players.

Figallo, from English Premiership club Saracens, was not included in the original 36strong squad named by new coach and former national team hooker Mario Ledesma.

But he was named on Thursday as the tighthead prop in a front row completed by loosehead Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro and captain and hooker Agustin Creevy.

Figallo is one of three changes to the pack that started in a 44-15 drubbing from the Scots in Resistencia.- Additional reporting by AFP