New Springbok coach Allister Coetzee on Thursday named five black players in his starting list that will face Ireland on Saturday in Cape Town for the first in a series of three test matches.
The selection of these players from the black majority in a sport dominated by white minority, is a response to the call of the South African government, which asked the various federations to incorporate more blacks in the national teams.
— South African Rugby (@Springboks) June 10, 2016
It is the start of a new era and not an easy team selection. It has been based on what is best for the Bok team.
Lions Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk will make his debut for South Africa against Ireland on Saturday as new Springbok coach Allister Coetzee picked a team based on form rather than transformation.
The Lions number nine is the only uncapped player in the starting line-up for the first of three tests against the Irish at Newlands which marks the start of a new era for Springbok rugby.
The 24-year-old De Klerk replaces Ruan Pienaar, who made himself unavailable for the series.
More than half of the team named in the line-up played in South Africa’s last outing in October when they beat Argentina in the third-place playoff at the Rugby World Cup in London.
“It is the start of a new era and not an easy team selection. It has been based on what is best for the Bok team,” said Coetzee, who has replaced Heyneke Meyer as coach and is tasked with building a team for the next World Cup in 2019.
Selection of South African teams has been dogged by controversy in recent years with demands for more black players to be chosen to better reflect the make-up of the country’s diverse population. But Coetzee’s team reflects more a preference for form, shown over the last months of Super Rugby, rather than any transformation agenda.
“We will select the best team for the country and whoever is not happy with that, I can’t help it. I’m happy with the choices,” the new coach told a news conference.
South Africa host an injury-depleted Ireland in the series which continues with a second test in Johannesburg on June 18 before the final game in Port Elizabeth the following weekend.
“Ireland are supposedly full of injury problems but are a quality side with a good pack,” Coetzee said. “We are under no illusions. We have our job cut out for us. They will put us under pressure with good line speed but we are well prepared.”
South African team: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-JP Pieterse, 13-Lionel Mapoe, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Lwazi Mvovo, 10-Pat Lambie, 9-Faf de Klerk, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Siya Kolisi, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Lood de Jager, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Frans Malherbe, 2-Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1-Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16-Bongi Mbonambi, 17-Trevor Nyakane, 18-Julian Redelinghuys, 19-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20-Warren Whiteley, 21-Rudy Paige, 22-Elton Jantjies, 23-Jesse Kriel
South Africa wins: 16
Ireland wins: 5