Damian de Allende will become the third Springbok in the Lions series to reach the career milestone of 50 Test caps in Saturday’s decider in Cape Town, where Morné Steyn could earn his first Test cap since 2016.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber made three changes to his starting team for the clash, two of which were personnel changes and one positional switch, mainly due to injuries to the influential Pieter-Steph du Toit (flanker) and Faf de Klerk (scrumhalf).
With Du Toit, the World Rugby Player of the Year in 2019, having taken a knock to the shoulder in the second Test last weekend, Franco Mostert moves from lock to the side of the scrum, while Lood de Jager is promoted from the bench to the starting team and will start alongside Eben Etzebeth in the second row.
The other change is at scrumhalf, where Cobus Reinach replaces De Klerk, who has been ruled out due to a muscle strain in his leg.
Nienaber opted to name three backs on the bench, with Steyn (flyhalf) joining Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf) and Damian Willemse (utility back).
Should Steyn take the field, it would mark a significant occasion for the player, as it would officially see him participate in back-to-back Castle Lager Lions Series tournaments. He kicked the penalty goal that sealed the series victory in 2009, while it would also see Steyn make a return to Test rugby for the first time in five years, after last playing against New Zealand in 2016.
“This is a massive Test for us with the Castle Lager Lions Series on the line, so it was important for us to maintain consistency in selection following on last week’s performance,” said Nienaber.
“Pieter-Steph du Toit was ruled out due to the shoulder injury he suffered last week, but we are fortunate to have experienced players such as Franco and Lood who can step in and who have the physical presence we need in those roles.
“Cobus is also an experienced player with a calm head and who can handle pressure, and we believe he will be able to dictate play well alongside Handré Pollard, while Herschel Jantjies has been great in adding the necessary spark we need off the bench, and will be asked to fulfil that role again.”
Nienaber was thrilled to see midfielder De Allende, who made his Test debut against Argentina in 2014, reach this significant career milestone and said: “It doesn’t get any bigger than earning a 50th Test cap in a series decider against the British & Irish Lions.
“We are excited for Damian and we know what it will mean to him and the team to win this match. He has been a key figure in the Bok team in the last few seasons and it gives us great pride to see him achieve this feat.”
Nienaber was also pleased to see Steyn back in the Bok jersey for the first time in years.
“I am delighted for Morné – he is a world class player and his work ethic and positive attitude on and off the field since joining the team in Bloemfontein has been impressive,” said the Bok coach.
“He can also perform under extreme pressure, as he shown for the Springboks and the Bulls, and that skill will be invaluable in such a vital Test.”
Looking forward to the match, Nienaber said he is expecting an epic battle and that the Boks were ready to give everything to win the Series.
“This group of players are among a handful of players in the history of South African rugby that have an opportunity to clinch a series against the Lions after winning the Rugby World Cup, and every player in this squad understands what a rare honour that is,” said Nienaber.
“I don’t think one needs any more motivation than that to win this weekend. We are preparing for a physical encounter and we know that every small battle will count if we want to win the series.
“This match is as important to us as it is for the Lions, so we know it is going to be tight, and we will have to capitalise on every opportunity we have to score points, and be effective in every area of our game.
“As Springboks, big moments such as these excite us, so we plan to go out there and give everything we have to clinch the Series.”
Mathieu Raynal (France) will referee the match, with Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand) and Nic Berry (Australia) serving as assistant referees, while Marius Jonker (South Africa) will be the television match official.
Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (capt), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff. Bench: Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Morné Steyn, Damian Willemse