Jacques Nienaber selects eye-catching new centre pairing in team to face All Blacks

Jacques Nienaber selects eye-catching new centre pairing in team to face All Blacks

Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber has sprung a couple of selection surprises in his side to face the All Blacks at Twickenham, which features eight changes in all.

This is the Boks' final warm-up game before the start of the Rugby World Cup and it could hardly be a bigger one.

The team for Friday night's clash suggests the Bok coaches still have one or two tricks up their sleeve as they continue to fine-tune preparations for the opening Rugby World Cup clash against Scotland in just under three weeks' time.

There aren't too many surprises among the forwards, where five of the pack that defeated Wales have been retained, including the front row of Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Malcolm Marx, as well as loose forwards Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit.

There is an all-new lock pairing of Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert, and veteran No 8 Duane Vermeulen starts in the back row after coming off the bench in Cardiff, but these are Bok stalwarts all.

At the back, flyhalf Manie Libbok and Canan Moodie also start again - although to everyone's surprise, Moodie has been picked to start at outside centre, suggesting the Bok coaches are thinking of other ways to utilise their break-out star without sacrificing any of their other talented wingers.

Makazole Mapimpi and Kurt-Lee Arendse are named on the left and right wings respectively, with Damian Willemse starting at fullback. Coming in to combine with Moodie in the midfield is Andre Esterhuizen, and no doubt all eyes will be on this potentially exciting new combination.

Faf de Klerk gets another chance at scrumhalf alongside Libbok, as Nienaber continues to carefully manage game time among the squad.

The Bok coach has opted for a split of six forwards and two backs on the bench this time around. Jean Kleyn, RG Snyman and Trevor Nyakane will provide an impact alongside Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche, and Marco van Staden. Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and fullback Willie le Roux, meanwhile, will provide backline cover.

"The All Blacks will provide a different challenge to Wales, and we believe this group of players is the right mix for this match," said Nienaber.

"New Zealand play a high-tempo game, and they turn on the intensity from the starting whistle as they showed in Auckland, so it's vital that we start well this week.

"We took the lessons from that match, and we've built good momentum since, so this will be a fantastic test before we enter our Rugby World Cup campaign."

Nienaber added: "Our objective since the beginning of the season was to strike a balance between performance and managing player load with only six Test matches to get ready for the World Cup, and we are pleased with the way we have developed in that regard.

"In the last five matches we've given everyone, with the exception of the injured players, valuable game time, which is vital going into the World Cup, and we are satisfied with the way we have been building as a team."

While this match is in reality only a curtain-raiser for the World Cup, what a curtain-raiser it's going to be - a massive battle between the Boks and All Blacks in front of 80 000 at Twickenham.

"The rivalry between the Springboks and All Blacks is one of the most intense in world rugby, so it's a great way for us to wrap up our warm-up matches before heading to France for the World Cup.

"This match may be on neutral ground, but we expect it to be as epic as every other Test between the teams. They are a quality team with several playmakers and physical forwards, and they'll give everything on Friday.

"We know what to expect and what we need to do to work our way into a position to get the desired result, so as a team we need to be ready mentally and physically," Nienaber added.

Springboks - 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Canan Moodie, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 RG Snyman, 21 Marco van Staden, 22 Cobus Reinach, 23 Willie le Roux.

READ MORE: Canan Moodie: Bok plans starting to come together ahead of World Cup