SOUTH Africa coach Heyneke Meyer named a strong Springbok line-up to face Italy in Durban on Saturday, but followed the example of Scotland coach Scott Johnson is naming a host of uncapped players.
The line-up also gives an early indication of who might face Scotland next week in Nelspruit as Meyer looks to hand opportunities to most of his squad over the first two weekends. With debutant scrum-half Jano Vermaak coming in to partner his experienced Blue Bulls partner Morne Steyn, and fellow Bull Pierre Spies offering further guidance from No 8, it now looks likely that the Bok with Scottish roots, Patrick Lambie, named on the bench this week, is in line to start against Scotland, possibly alongside the Ulster player Ruan Pienaar.
But much will depend on how South Africa manage Italy in their first meeting in three years, and begin to build interest around this new quadrangular tournament among an expectant South African public.
Meyer said: “I think this is a great format with three games potentially against three different teams, but this is South Africa and so we have to win all three Tests, just as we would if it was a three-Test series.
Willie le Roux (full-back) will also earn his Springbok debut in the starting team, while the trio of uncapped players on the bench are Trevor Nyakane (prop), Arno Botha (loose forward) and Jan Serfontein (centre), a highly promising talent who was part of the South Africa under-20 team that won the Junior World Championship last year and has starred in this year’s Super Rugby championship.
Stalwarts Bryan Habana (wing), Spies and Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira (prop), who missed the tour last November and Test match with Scotland because of injury and health issues, are back in the starting team, while centre JJ Engelbrecht will start his first Test for South Africa at outside centre and winger Bjorn Basson will earn his seventh cap after last playing for the Springboks in 2011.