Steven Kitshoff. Picture: SA RUGBY TWITTER
Steven Kitshoff. Picture: SA RUGBY TWITTER

The battle lines are clear — the Springboks have chosen a monstrous pack to take on the All Blacks in the one area the home team believe the world champions might have a small chink — the set-piece.

Prop Steven Kitshoff will make his first Test start after 18 appearances from the bench, while Pieter-Steph du Toit will start at blindside flank for the third time in a Test. Lock Lood de Jager returns to the second row as the Boks stuffed their pack with tall, powerful timber.

Coach Allister Coetzee’s selections suggest that the plan of playing ball-in-hand from all areas of the field might give way to a more direct attacking approach from the Boks.

The Boks’ lineout suffered against the All Blacks three weeks ago when they lost five balls on their own throw on the way to a record 57-0 defeat.

But the All Blacks are missing Brodie Retallick for this clash and that might have influenced the Bok thinking. With Eben Etzebeth, Du Toit and De Jager starting, and Franco Mostert and Jean-Luc du Preez on the bench, the home team have no shortage of lineout options.

Kitshoff also brings a high work rate in the loose and supreme power in the scrums, which will be aided by the strapping Du Toit scrumming behind him. Replacing the reinvigorated Tendai Mtawarira, who pulled out for unspecified "personal reasons", is a big task but Kitshoff probably should have earned a start much sooner in his career.

Du Toit’s selection could be seen as a risk, but at this stage of the season, with nothing to lose, Coetzee needs to gamble.

Francois Louw will wear No8 for the first time in a Test as a result of the reshuffle, but he packed down at eighthman a few times against Australia last week. When Du Toit started a Test at flank twice before, the Boks suffered. Most infamously Du Toit donned the No 7 jersey in the opening game of the 2015 Rugby World Cup against Japan in Brighton, and the Boks lost.

In 2016, Du Toit reprised the role against England at Twickenham and was twice embarrassed on defence when he was caught out by scrumhalf Ben Youngs, leading to two England tries. As experiments go, those were failures, but there is so much to suggest it could work.

Du Toit is playing good rugby. He is confident and mobile as well as supremely big and physical. He also offers another lineout option and his power in the scrum is unquestioned.

"I wanted us to go out and play with our most experienced players, and … to ensure that we fix what didn’t go well in Albany, such as our lineouts," coach Coetzee said.

"For this game, we’ve got the perfect combination and balance. Pieter-Steph is a great lineout exponent, he carries the ball well, and then we’ve got the two loosies [Siya Kolisi and Louw] who can play on the ground and carry in the wide channels. Flo [Louw] is really confident playing at No 8, and it’s not that he hasn’t played there before. The big thing is that No 8 and No 6 are actually very similar positions, and as an openside flank, he is accurate in terms of playing towards the ball and securing possession."

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen brought in Scott Barrett for Retallick in an otherwise unchanged starting XV from the Albany team.

Hansen is expecting far more accuracy from the Boks compared to their last meeting.

He stuck to the line that they were not as bad as the score suggested. "SA will be a lot more physical and they will be a lot more accurate," Hansen said.

"That was their issue three weeks ago, because what they were trying to do was not wrong, it was how they executed that let them down.

"They’ll have to be better. They’re not coming off travel like they did in Albany, so they will be comfortable travelling from the highveld and coming off that 57-0, their mind-set will be as good as it’s ever been because that would have hurt them."

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