Victory is a must for South Africa when they face New Zealand on Saturday if they're to stand a chance of retaining the Rugby Championship crown.
The Springboks are staggered following successive defeats to Australia, which has left them 10 points behind the All Blacks ahead of their 100th Test clash at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
Head coach Jacques Nienaber has stuck with the same core of players for the centenary match despite back-to-back losses against the Wallabies, however, making only two changes to his latest XV.
Both those alterations concern the pack as Lood de Jager returns at lock following a concussion absence, while Kwagga Smith replaces flanker Franco Mostert, who will hope to make an impact off the bench.
Nienaber previewed Saturday's milestone match in Townsville and is expecting a fierce test, one that could see New Zealand reclaim the Rugby Championship crown provided they avoid defeat.
“It’s always a massive task to face the All Blacks,” the Springboks chief told reporters.
“They have skilful players who thrive on turnover ball and who know how to capitalise on point-scoring opportunities, so we know that we need to a deliver a quality 80-minute performance against them to turn the corner after two disappointing defeats."
No. 8 Jasper Wiese was sin binned for a dangerous ruck entry late on against Australia last Sunday, but he's not in the squad despite having his citation dismissed by a judiciary panel on Tuesday.
There's also no sign of Cheslin Kolbe returning to action just yet, with the talismanic winger having missed both the defeats to Australia due to a leg injury.]
Nienaber said the speedster is recovering well in his bid to contribute against the All Blacks, though it's possible the title will now be decided before he's back in the squad.
Do you think South Africa can turn the tide, or will New Zealand clinch the crown on Saturday? Let us know in the comments section.
“We are fully aware of the challenge that awaits us, and we know what we have to do to stay on the right side of the scoreboard this weekend – strong defence, accurate execution and capitalising on our point-scoring chances will be key,” the coach continued.
“We also have to ensure we make minimal mistakes because the All Blacks have proved time and again how they punish teams from small errors, so we need to deliver an effective performance all around.”
Loosehead prop Trevor Nyakane will earn his 50th Springboks cap, while Nienaber has opted for a change in bench tactics after adding veteran Frans Steyn to his options.
New Zealand have their tails up after stretching their Rugby Championship lead with two wins over Argentina in the space of six days.
Head coach Ian Foster rested a number of his first-string stars as New Zealand pummelled the Pumas 36-13 last Saturday.
That result was enough to see the All Blacks climb back to No. 1 in the World Rugby rankings for the first time since 2019, replacing the reigning world champions at the summit.
The Rugby Championship title race offers both teams ample motivation ahead of their Round 5 battle, but there are extra bragging rights on offer as the nations collide for the 100th time a century after they first met in 1921.
South Africa team to face New Zealand
(Backs) Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; (Forwards) Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi (c), Kwagga Smith, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane
Reps: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Marco van Staden, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn
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