De Villiers back to captain Springboks
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Jean de Villiers returned to captain South Africa for its Rugby Championship opener against Argentina this weekend while youngsters Handre Pollard, Damian de Allende and Lood de Jager were all given a start by coach Heyneke Meyer.
De Villiers will captain from inside center after missing the June tests against Wales and Scotland through injury, meaning De Allende will make his test debut in the unfamiliar outside center position. De Allende has made his Super Rugby appearances at No. 12 or wing but was picked by Meyer on Wednesday to start against Argentina after also missing the mid-year tests with injury.
Young flyhalf Pollard was at No. 10 for his second test in a swift ascension to the senior team after leading South Africa Under-20s to the Junior World Cup final in June. The 20-year-old Pollard was preferred by Meyer over 56-test veteran Morne Steyn, who was put on the bench.
Lock De Jager was the third young player to get his chance, and replaced veteran Victor Matfield in the second row. Matfield was ruled out against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday with a knee problem. Veteran lock Bakkies Botha will start alongside De Jager.
The Springboks also have prop Tendai Mtawarira and flanker Willem Alberts back in the starting lineup after they missed the victory over Scotland at the end of June. Lock Eben Etzebeth won a place on the bench having not played this year because of injury.
Ruan Pienaar replaced Fourie du Preez at scrumhalf, with Du Preez likely out for the rest of the year with an ankle injury. Wing Bryan Habana was in line to play his 98th test in a back three also containing newcomer Cornal Hendricks on the other wing and Willie le Roux at fullback. Skipper De Villiers will play his 97th test.
South Africa finished second to world champion New Zealand in the Rugby Championship last season. Argentina heads into its third season in the southern hemisphere competition still searching for its first win.
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Damian de Allende, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Handre Pollard, Ruan Pienaar; Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Lood de Jager, Bakkies Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Hougaard, Morne Steyn, Jan Serfontein.