Eben Etzebeth to captain Boks against All Blacks, Willemse at flyhalf

Eben Etzebeth to captain Boks against All Blacks, Willemse at flyhalf

Eben Etzebeth will make his return from a shoulder injury when he captains the Springboks against New Zealand in Auckland on Saturday.

After both teams secured emphatic victories on the opening weekend of the shortened Rugby Championship - the Boks dispatching Australia and the all Blacks making light work of Argentina - this weekend's clash at Mount Smart Stadium is likely to be a decider for the title.

As expected, Bok coach Jacques Nienaber has named 10 of the 14 players who travelled to New Zealand a week ago to acclimatise to the conditions and time zone in his matchday squad - nine of whom will start.

That includes locks Etzebeth and Lood de Jager and the loose trio of Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert and Jasper Wiese. Malcolm Marx, who was also a member of the advance travelling contingent, will provide cover at hooker off the bench.

In the backline, wings Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe also make their first starts of the season, along with centre Damian de Allende, who will reunite with his Rugby World Cup-winning midfield partner Lukhanyo Am, who started against Australia at Loftus.

Others who featured against the Wallabies and have again been named in the side to face the All Blacks are Willie le Roux, who retains his spot at fullback, and Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe, who are back to anchor the scrum.

Damian Willemse, who came on as a replacement at Loftus, has been handed the No 10 jersey after Manie Libbok was given the honours last weekend.

Nienaber has again opted for a six-two split on the replacements bench in favour of the forwards, mainly comprised of players who featured against Australia, including No 8 Duane Vermeulen, lock RG Snyman and two backs in Libbok and Grant Williams, who can provide cover at scrumhalf and wing.

"We planned to select a squad with a few key combinations of players who are fully acclimatised and settled in New Zealand, while also selecting some players who started last week, and we are pleased with the balance we were able to strike with this squad," said Nienaber.

"This allows us to give some players their first taste of international rugby this season alongside a group of players who come off a physical clash against the Wallabies, and we believe this will be beneficial against a top opponent in the All Blacks.

"The fact that we can give a few other players in the bigger squad a run this weekend is fantastic as we want to give as many players as possible game time with an eye on doing well in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and further ahead in the Rugby World Cup."

Of Etzebeth's return, Nienaber said: "Eben has been working very hard in the last few months to make a full recovery from his shoulder injury and it's great to see him return to the field in this important fixture. He's a vastly experienced player with 110 Test caps, he's captained the Springboks before and he has been with the group of players in New Zealand for over a week, so he is the ideal person to lead the team this weekend."

Looking forward to the clash against the All Blacks, Nienaber expected the Boks to face a thorough test all around: "New Zealand have a strong pack of forwards and dangerous backs, and they showed last week what they can do when they have the space to convert their chances into points.

"We need to deliver a strong performance in all departments and our defence needs to be solid against them. This is an important match for both teams with each team only playing three games in the competition this season."

Springboks - 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21 Duane Vermeulen, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Manie Libbok.