SPRINGBOK centre Juan de Jongh and prop Gurthrö Steenkamp will earn their first starts in the Bok jersey in more than a year on Saturday when the Boks battle it out with Scotland in the penultimate Test on their year-end tour.
Steenkamp’s last Test was against Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal last October, while De Jongh last featured in the starting team in the Boks’ Rugby Championship clash against New Zealand in Wellington shortly before the international spectacle last year.
While Steenkamp’s vast Test experience and familiarity with northern hemisphere conditions will be handy against Scotland, De Jongh’s flair on attack and ability to spot gaps in the opposition’s defence could add a new dimension to the Boks’ attack.
His familiarity with Bok skipper Jean de Villiers’s style of play — thanks to the solid midfield pairing they have formed at the Stormers in the last two seasons — could also count in the Boks’ favour.
In the two changes to the side that beat Ireland last week, Steenkamp, who recovered from the ankle injury that ruled him out last week, replaces CJ van der Linde, while De Jongh takes over from Jaco Taute.
However, both Van der Linde and Taute were included on the bench. Tighthead prop Pat Cilliers, meanwhile, was dropped from the squad to accommodate Van der Linde.
Interestingly, coach Heyneke Meyer again opted for Saracens hooker Schalk Brits on the bench, with experienced Bok flyhalf Morné Steyn providing cover for Pat Lambie, who earns his second start at pivot in as many weeks.
Meyer said on Wednesday he was excited to see what Steenkamp and De Jongh would add to the team.
"It’s great to have Gurthrö back. We wanted to select him last week, but unfortunately he was not 100% fit. He is experienced, he knows the conditions well, and he is looking forward to returning to the green and gold, as he’s not played for South Africa for more than a year," he said.
"Juan is in a similar position. Even though he’s played in a number of Tests for us this year, he has not started for the Boks since last year’s Tri-Nations away leg. My plan has always been to give him a start on this tour, as he’s been playing very well lately, and I’m excited to see what he will bring to the team."
In the Scottish camp, coach Andy Robinson also made two changes to his starting team that went down 51-22 against the All Blacks, with veteran tighthead prop Euan Murray reclaiming his place in the front row after missing last week’s game due to religious reasons, while No8 Dave Denton replaces Ross Rennie, who has been ruled out of the clash with a dislocated shoulder.
Robinson also made four changes to his bench, including hooker Dougie Hall replacing Scott Lawson and prop Geoff Cross taking over from Allan Jacobsen.
Despite the Boks entering the clash as favourites, Meyer’s starting team boasts only 416 Test caps compared with Scotland’s 480.
Zane Kirchner; JP Pietersen; Juan de Jongh; Jean de Villiers (captain); Francois Hougaard; Pat Lambie; Ruan Pienaar; Duane Vermeulen; Willem Alberts; Francois Louw; Juandre Kruger; Eben Etzebeth; Jannie du Plessis; Adriaan Strauss; Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: Schalk Brits; Heinke van der Merwe; CJ van der Linde; Flip van der Merwe; Marcell Coetzee; Morne Steyn; Jaco Taute; Lwazi Mvovo.
Stuart Hogg; Sean Lamont; Nick De Luca; Matt Scott; Tim Visser; Greig Laidlaw; Mike Blair; David Denton; Kelly Brown (captain); Alasdair Strokosch; Jim Hamilton; Richie Gray; Euan Murray; Ross Ford; Ryan Grant.
Replacements: Dougie Hall; Kyle Traynor; Geoff Cross; Alastair Kellock; John Barclay; Henry Pyrgos; Ruaridh Jackson; Peter Murchie