South Africa splits squad, selects 2 new caps for Australia
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa selected flanker Rynhardt Elstadt and scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies to make their debuts in the Rugby Championship test against Australia on Saturday as a group of first-choice players traveled ahead to prepare for the away game against New Zealand.
Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus split his squad into two groups, hoping to prepare better for the world champion All Blacks and manage fatigue ahead of the upcoming Rugby World Cup starting in September.
In the absence of injured captain Siya Kolisi, lock Eben Etzebeth was named on Wednesday to lead South Africa against the Wallabies at Ellis Park.
South Africa’s team has players needing game time after injury and others on the fringes of the World Cup squad. Etzebeth and lock partner Lood de Jager are both returning from injuries. Elton Jantjies starts at flyhalf in place of first choice Handre Pollard.
Ireland-based loose forward Marcel Coetzee is on the bench and in line to play his first test since 2015. Utility back Frans Steyn is also among the reserves, as is uncapped prop Lizo Gqoboka.
South Africa has six players in the 23 for the Australia game who play overseas, indicating Erasmus will cast his net wide in an effort to find the right combinations for the World Cup in Japan. They are Elstadt, No. 8 Francois Louw, and reserves Vincent Koch, Cobus Reinach, Coetzee and Steyn.
Australia’s preparations have been upset with three players returning home with injuries and winger Marika Koroibete released for family reasons.
James O’Connor could return to Australia’s test team after a six-year absence. The utility back’s international career was stalled by a series of off-field disciplinary issues but he’s returned to Australia after club spells in Britain and France and is with the Wallabies squad in South Africa.
Australia names its team on Thursday.