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Etzebeth to lead Boks against Wallabies in Rugby Championship opener

Eben Etzebeth takes over the captaincy from regular captain Siya Kolisi, who is recovering from a knee injury.

FILE: Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth (L) is tackled by England flanker Brad Shields (R) during the international rugby union test match between England and South Africa at Twickenham stadium in south-west London on 3 November 2018. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth was named Springbok captain for Saturday’s first Rugby Championship match between against Australia in Johannesburg.

Loose forward Rynhardt Elstadt and scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies will both make their Test debuts on the Highveld.

The game is the first in the Springboks’ shorteneds 2019 Rugby Championship campaign, which also consists of away matches against New Zealand and Argentina.

Etzebeth takes over the captaincy from regular captain Siya Kolisi, who is recovering from a knee injury, while Aphiwe Dyantyi was also not considered for selection because of a hamstring injury. It will be Etzebeth’s 12th Test as Bok captain.

Toulouse's Elstadt and Stormers' Jantjies are the only two uncapped players in the starting team, while prop Lizo Gqoboka is also set to earn his debut off the bench.

Elstadt is picked at flank in a loose trio that also includes the experienced duo of Pieter-Steph du Toit and Francois Louw.

Jantjies will play alongside the 33-cap flyhalf Elton Jantjies in a new-look half-back combination.

On the bench there is also a return to the Bok fold for a number of familiar faces as Erasmus casts his net wide with the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad in mind. They are Ulster loose forward Marcell Coetzee, Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints, scrumhalf), the mercurial Frans Steyn from Montpellier and Dillyn Leyds.

Etzebeth has 75 caps to his name, his lock partner Lood de Jager is set to make his 39th appearance while Tendai Mtawarira has already played in 107 Tests.

“The squad have trained together for more than three weeks and this match is important for us to start a very important rugby year,” said SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.

“We want to win the Rugby Championship and we have a specific plan, which starts Saturday with the first Test against the Wallabies."

“We have planned to mix things up in the first two Tests of the season, in order to give game time to as many of the players in our wider squad, and we believe this is the right combination to face a very good and competitive Australian side.

“We are excited for the forthcoming year and I want to congratulate Rynhardt, Herschel and Lizo on their first inclusion in a Springbok match-day squad, while the leadership role is not something new for Eben. The build-up has been good and there is definitely a very good vibe for match.

“Australia have prepared very well for this match and they have spent two weeks at altitude to acclimatise to the Highveld, so we are in for a great contest,” added Erasmus.

Springbok team: 15. Warrick Gelant, 14. Sbu Nkosi, 13. Jesse Kriel, 12. André Esterhuizen, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Herschel Jantjies, 8. Francois Louw, 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6. Rynhardt Elstadt, 5. Lood de Jager, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Trevor Nyakane, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. Schalk Brits, 17. Lizo Gqoboka, 18. Vincent Koch, 19. Marvin Orie, 20. Marcell Coetzee, 21. Cobus Reinach, 22. Frans Steyn, 23. Dillyn Leyds.

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