South Africa makes three changes for crunch second Lions Test

New faces in the frontrow and backrow as Springboks bid to bounce back in Cape Town

Steven Kitschoff starts for South Africa against the Lions on Saturday. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

The Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has made three changes to his starting XV for Saturday’s second Test against the British & Irish Lions in Cape Town. The world champions have suffered a blow with loosehead Ox Nché ruled out due to the neck strain he suffered at a scrum toward the end of the opening period in the first Test.

Steven Kitshoff is promoted from the bench, as is tighthead Frans Malherbe, while the third change sees the Leicester Tigers’ Jasper Wiese named at number eight to earn his first Test start after making his debut as a replacement against Georgia earlier this month.

Bongi Mbonambi’s hamstring strain has recovered sufficiently for him to start the match. Kitshoff, who made his Test debut against Ireland in 2016, will be winning his 50th cap.

South Africa Rugby have confirmed that the second and third Lions Tests will be moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Kwagga Smith drops to the replacements, where as expected Nienaber reverts to the 6-2 split which was so effective in the knock-out stages of the World Cup.


The demoted Trevor Nyakane, normally a tighthead, will cover loosehead and the promoted Vincent Koch will be the back-up tighthead, while Marco van Staden takes over from Rynhardt Elstadt as loose forward cover along with Smith.

With Elton Jantjies dropping out of the matchday 23, this leaves Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse as the only two backs on the bench, with the Springboks clearly believing that Handré Pollard will be better able to play the full 80 minutes next Saturday.

The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 603, with a further 159 caps on the bench.

“This is a massive game for us; it is do or die in order to stay in the race to win the series and we selected a team that offers continuity in selection, but also that we thought would be the best suited to achieve the objectives we have set for this match,” said Nienaber.

“Ox did well in the scrums last week and has been ruled out due to injury, but fortunately we have a world class player in Steven who can step into the starting team. The fact that this will mark his 50th Test will make this occasion even more important for him.”

Of the decision to opt for a 6-2 split, the so-called Bomb Squad, on the bench, Nienaber said: “We have had an extra week on the training field after a few disruptive weeks in the build-up to the opening Test, so we are confident that the players in the squad will be able to deliver on the physicality and grit that will be required in this match.

“We need to be better in every area of the game this week, and the set-pieces will be crucial in laying the foundations we need to execute our game plan effectively.

“We also spoke about our discipline and the aerial battle as a team, and we intend to work as hard as possible at training this week to correct the errors that cost us last week.”

Nienaber expected another epic battle against the Lions and maintained the Boks were in the right frame of mind to bounce back from the disappointment they endured last week.

“We disappointed ourselves last week, and we all know how important it is to bounce back with a strong performance and show our fighting spirit and pride as a team and nation.

“For most players the Lions Series is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we desperately want to win the series, so we will fight as hard as we can on the field to win this week so that we can achieve that goal.”

Ben O’Keeffe from New Zealand has been appointed as the referee for the match, with Mathieu Raynal (France) and Nic Berry (Australia) serving as his assistant referees, while Marius Jonker (South Africa) will be the television match official again.

South Africa: Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz); Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse), Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), Damian de Allende (Munster), Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks); Handré Pollard (Montpellier), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks); Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers); Eben Etzebeth (Toulon), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat); Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks), Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers). Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Damian Willemse.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times