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South Africa vs Wales on Sky Sports: Springboks’ Damian Willemse and Elton Jantjies start first Test at Loftus Versfeld

Damian Willemse (l) and Elton Jantjies will start for the Springboks in Pretoria

Elton Jantjies will start at fly-half and the electric Damian Willemse at full-back when South Africa take on Wales in the first Test at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.

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 scrum-half Faf de Klerk, all of whom started for the Boks in their 2019 World Cup final victory over England.

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 fly-half and centre in addition to full-back, 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.

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.

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The pair faced off in Cape Town earlier this month when Moerat’s Stormers beat the Bulls in the inaugural United Rugby Championship final.

“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 said.

“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, also live on Sky Sports, 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.

The Boks' last Test ended in defeat to England last November

The Boks’ last Test ended in defeat to England last November

South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 1 Ox Nche, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 3 Frans Malherbe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Lood de Jager, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 7 Franco Mostert, 8 Jasper Wiese.

Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Willie le Roux.

Beard wants Wales to be history-makers in SA

The odds are stacked against last year’s Guinness Six Nations champions, with Wales’ degree of difficulty increased by the opening two games – in Pretoria and Bloemfontein – being at altitude.

And they have also never beaten the Springboks in South Africa, losing all 10 previous Tests, with many of those results being comprehensive defeats.

“It is obviously going to be tough, physically and mentally,” Wales lock Beard said.

“We are in a really good space as a squad. We’ve trained well and we know what is on the line here – to create our own bit of history.

Adam Beard wants Wales to make history in South Africa

Adam Beard wants Wales to make history in South Africa

“It would be an awesome feeling going out there and creating that history. The boys are ready, the boys are raring to go, and we can’t wait to get stuck into it.”

Beard is likely to be among a number of British and Irish Lions on last year’s South Africa tour featuring in Wales’ starting line-up.

That experience, albeit in games behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, will undoubtedly be beneficial for Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.

“It was the experience of going on the tour, meeting guys from different countries, learning off people,” Beard said.

“To get a Test match (appearance) was an unbelievable experience.

“Looking at South Africa, they are a big physical team that pride themselves on the set-piece and being physical and direct.

“Those are the sort of games that I enjoy and I feel like it’s when I come up trumps and I can use my points of difference.”

Wayne Pivac will name his side on Thursday

Wayne Pivac will name his side on Thursday

Pivac is due to announce his starting line-up on Thursday for Wales’ first clash against the Springboks in South Africa since 2014, and there are likely to be a number of changes from the side beaten 22-21 by Six Nations opponents Italy three months ago.

Three of that team – Johnny McNicholl, Uilisi Halaholo and Seb Davies – are not on the tour, but Pivac is boosted by players like George North and Dan Lydiate being available following long-term injuries.

Both players have been out of Test rugby for more than a year, last featuring in Wales colours during the 2021 Six Nations. North looks set to start at outside centre, while 34-year-old Lydiate could reclaim the number six shirt.

Elsewhere, full-back Liam Williams, scrum-half Tomos Williams and prop Tomas Francis are set for returns, and Pivac must decide whether to retain 150 times-capped Alun Wyn Jones in the second row, with Beard and Will Rowlands also pushing hard for starting places.

Bumper July of rugby on Sky Sports

Wednesday, June 29

Maori All Blacks vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 8am (kick off is at 8.05am)

Saturday, July 2

New Zealand vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30am (kick-off at 8:05am)

Australia vs England – live on Sky Sports Action from 10:15am (kick-off at 10:55am)

South Africa vs Wales – live on Sky Sports Action from 3:30pm (kick-off at 4:05pm)

Argentina vs Scotland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30pm (kick-off at 8:10pm)

Saturday, July 9

New Zealand vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30am (kick-off at 8:05am)

Australia vs England – live on Sky Sports Action from 10:15am (kick-off at 10:55am)

South Africa vs Wales – live on Sky Sports Action from 3:30pm (kick-off at 4:05pm)

Argentina vs Scotland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30pm (kick-off at 8:10pm)

Tuesday, July 12

Maori All Blacks vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 8am (kick off is at 8.05am)

Saturday, July 16

New Zealand vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30am (kick-off at 8:05am)

Australia vs England – live on Sky Sports Action from 10:15am (kick-off at 10:55am)

South Africa vs Wales – live on Sky Sports Action from 3:30pm (kick-off at 4:05pm)

Argentina vs Scotland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30pm (kick-off at 8:10pm)



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