Faf de Klerk and Pieter-Steph du Toit: Warren Gatland has his say on missing South African duo
South Africa have been deprived of the services of Faf de Klerk and Pieter-Steph du Toit for the third Test and it represents a significant loss according to Lions coach Warren Gatland who described the pair as “world class”.
De Klerk, the Springboks’ buzzbomb scrum-half, sustained a leg muscle injury in the second Test, while flanker du Toit damaged his shoulder in the first-half of the 27-9 win following a tackle by Duhan van der Merwe.
With the Lions having won the first Test, this Saturday’s match is the series decider after a torrid tour.
South Africa have called up Montpellier No 9 Cobus Reinach to replace de Klerk who was instrumental in the victory at the weekend, creating the second try for Lukhanyo Am.
In the absence of du Toit, Franco Mostert switches from the second row to openside with Lood de Jager coming in at lock.
“It’ll be two big losses for them because they’re both world class players,” said Gatland. “They have a big impact on the game so it will definitely be a loss.
“We thought that when Faf came off he might have had a hamstring or a glut so we weren’t expecting him to be playing this weekend and we weren’t sure about du Toit. He took a knock early on in the game and tried to play through it but wasn’t right.”
Aside from those two personnel changes, head coach Jacques Nienaber has kept faith with the team which started last weekend.
World Cup-winning No 8 Duane Vermeulen does not make the matchday squad after joining the Springboks camp following an ankle injury and prop Ox Nche again misses out due to a neck issue.
Centre Damian de Allende will win his 50th Test cap in Cape Town, while 37-year-old replacement fly-half Morne Steyn could make his first international appearance in almost five years.
Steyn, who has not appeared for the Springboks since a 57-15 loss to New Zealand in October 2016, takes de Jager’s place on an otherwise-unchanged bench.
“This is a massive Test for us with the series on the line, so it was important for us to maintain consistency in selection following last week’s performance,” Nienaber said.
“Pieter-Steph du Toit was ruled out due to the shoulder injury he suffered last week, but we are fortunate to have experienced players such as Franco and Lood who can step in and who have the physical presence we need in those roles.
“Cobus is also an experienced player with a calm head and who can handle pressure, and we believe he will be able to dictate play well alongside Handre Pollard.
“This group of players are among a handful of players in the history of South African rugby that have an opportunity to clinch a series against the Lions after winning the Rugby World Cup, and every player in this squad understands what a rare honour that is.
“I don’t think one needs any more motivation than that to win this weekend. We are preparing for a physical encounter and we know that every small battle will count if we want to win the series.”