'We will select the best team for the country' - One new cap in South Africa XV to play Ireland
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk will make his debut for South Africa against Ireland on Saturday as new Springbok coach Allister Coetzee picked a team based on form rather than transformation on Thursday.
The Lions number nine is the only uncapped player in the starting line-up for the first of three tests against the Irish at Newlands which marks the start of a new era for Springbok rugby.
The 24-year-old De Klerk replaces Ruan Pienaar, who made himself unavailable for the series.
More than half of the team named in the line-up played in South Africa's last outing in October when they beat Argentina in the third-place playoff at the Rugby World Cup in London.
“It is the start of a new era and not an easy team selection. It has been based on what is best for the Bok team,” said Coetzee, who has replaced Heyneke Meyer as coach and is tasked with building a team for the next World Cup in 2019.
Selection of South African teams has been dogged by controversy in recent years with demands for more black players to be chosen to better reflect the make-up of the country’s diverse population.
But Coetzee’s team reflects more a preference for form, shown over the last months of Super Rugby, rather than any transformation agenda.
“We will select the best team for the country and whoever is not happy with that, I can’t help it. I’m happy with the choices,” the new coach told a news conference.
“Faf’s got to be reined in a bit. He is a bundle of energy who does everything at 100 percent. But he’s an instinctive player who will bring something special to the team.”
Lionel Mapoe has been preferred to Jess Kriel at centre after a strong showing in Super Rugby for the Lions while flanker Siya Kolisi gets a first start after a record-equalling 13 caps as a replacement.
South Africa host an injury-depleted Ireland in the series which continues with a second test in Johannesburg on June 18 before the final game in Port Elizabeth the following weekend.
“Ireland are supposedly full of injury problems but are a quality side with a good pack," Coetzee said. "We are under no illusions. We have our job cut out for this weekend. They will put us under pressure with good line speed but we are well prepared.”
South African team: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-JP Pieterse, 13-Lionel Mapoe, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Lwazi Mvovo, 10-Pat Lambie, 9-Faf de Klerk, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Siya Kolisi, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Lood de Jager, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Frans Malherbe, 2-Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1-Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16-Bongi Mbonambi, 17-Trevor Nyakane, 18-Julian Redelinghuys, 19-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20-Warren Whiteley, 21-Rudy Paige, 22-Elton Jantjies, 23-Jesse Kriel