Beast reaches 100 for Boks; Shields replaces Robshaw
A week after celebrating Siya Kolisi’s elevation to Springboks captain, prop Tendai Mtawarira will play his 100th rugby test against England in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The 32-year-old loosehead was born in Zimbabwe but made his debut for South Africa 10 years ago. He will be the sixth Springbok to the milestone after Percy Montgomery, John Smit, Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana, and Jean de Villiers.
“Much like a typical front-rower, ‘Beast’ is not someone who likes the spotlight,” South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus said of Mtawarira on Thursday. “However, his contribution to Springbok rugby during the past decade has been enormous and I want to congratulate him on reaching 100 test caps.”
Erasmus was able to name Frans Malherbe at tighthead prop following a lengthy absence for a neck injury. He replaced Stormers teammate Wilco Louw in the starting side.
Also, Pieter-Steph du Toit swapped with Jean-Luc du Preez for the No. 7 jersey.
South Africa was undefeated in five series against England, but Erasmus expected a backlash from the tourists.
“They will no doubt want to bounce back to level the series, so it’s going to be another huge test of our resolve and character,” he said.
After watching his side lose a fast-paced first test 42-39 in Johannesburg last weekend, England coach Eddie Jones was boosted by the return to fitness of lock Joe Launchbury, who missed the opening game with a calf problem.
Launchbury will partner Maro Itoje after taking the place of Nick Isiekwe, who was substituted after just 36 minutes at Ellis Park.
Brad Shields, who replaced Isiekwe, will also start in place of flanker Chris Robshaw. Jones looks to draw on the Hurricanes flanker’s experience of the higher tempo that is prevalent in southern hemisphere rugby.
Jones also cited Shields’ lineout ability as something that gave him the edge over Robshaw, who was dropped for the first time in Jones’ 2 1/2-year tenure.
“It is tough on Chris Robshaw as he has been an outstanding player for us but I know he will bounce back,” said Jones, who also named Danny Cipriani and Mark Wilson among the substitutes.
“We are looking for something a little bit different to finish the game, which (Cipriani) can bring,” Jones said.
Shields’ duties will also extend to shutting down South Africa scrumhalf Faf de Klerk — who ran riot at Ellis Park as South Africa at one stage scored 39 points in 44 minutes — and to cutting the number of penalties that England concede at the breakdown.
Another high-scoring game is expected in Bloemfontein, a similarly dry ground at altitude where South Africa averages 36 points per game since 1992.
“Bloemfontein is a very fast ground at altitude. It has an average of 60 points per test match so we are anticipating an ebb-and-flow type game like we had in Johannesburg,” Jones said.
The third and final match of the series takes place in Cape Town on June 23.
South Africa: Willie le Roux, S’busiso Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Akker van der Merwe, Steven Kitshoff, Thomas du Toit, Jean-Luc du Preez, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Ivan van Zyl, Jesse Kriel, Warrick Gelant.
England: Elliot Daly, Jonny May, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Mike Brown, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry, Brad Shields, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola. Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Harry Williams, Mark Wilson, Nathan Hughes, Ben Spencer, Danny Cipriani, Denny Solomona.