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Boks make backline changes for Wales Test

Elton Jantjies will start at flyhalf and the electric Damian Willemse at fullback when South Africa take on Wales in the first match of a three Test home series at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Jantjies has been preferred to regular starter Handre Pollard, who played in the French Top 14 final win for Montpellier on Friday, while Willemse is chosen ahead of the vastly more experienced Willie le Roux.

It suggests the Boks might look to run with ball in hand and move slightly away from their reliance on a kicking game, looking instead to tire the Welsh at altitude before unleashing their powerful forwards off the bench.

The rest of the backline has a familiar look to it with wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, centres Lukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende, and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, who does provide a kicking option from the base of the ruck.

The front row consists of props Frans Malherbe and Ox Nche, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, the lock pairing of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager, and a back three of captain Siya Kolisi, Franco Mostert and Jasper Wiese.

“We have the advantage of having several players that are quite versatile, so a guy like Damian Willemse can cover flyhalf and centre in addition to fullback, while Kwagga (Smith) covers each of the loose forward positions and can even slot in at wing with his Blitzbok (Sevens) experience,” head coach Jacques Nienaber said in a media release from South African Rugby.

Uncapped lock Salmaan Moerat and loose-forward Elrigh Louw have been named among the replacements and will almost certainly get a run as the Boks use their 6-2 split on the bench in the second half to add fresh muscle in the pack.

“We have a fantastic crop of young players who have really been working hard at training and putting up their hands, and it is pleasing for us as coaches to give Salmaan and Elrigh this opportunity,” Nienaber says.

“We have a plan for the season in terms of giving some of the young players a chance to show what they can do at international level, while at the same time taking stock of the seasoned campaigners and where they are in terms of their rugby.”

The second and third Tests will be played in Bloemfontein and Cape Town respectively over the following two Saturdays. Wales lost all 10 of their previous matches in South Africa.

South Africa: Damian Willemse, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk; Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (capt), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche. Reserves: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Salmaan Moerat, Elrigh Louw, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Willie le Roux.

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