Springbok rookies to face Wales in US
Coach Rassie Erasmus chooses not to send established players for clash in Washington DC
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has kept most of his established internationals at home and selected seven new caps in an inexperienced side for Saturday’s clash with Wales at the Robert F Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington DC.
Erasmus is primarily focused on the upcoming home series against England, which starts in Johannesburg on June 9, and opted not to send the majority of players likely to be involved in those three Tests to the US.
The match also falls outside of the June international window, which restricted the South African coach from picking overseas-based players.
Lock Pieter-Steph du Toit will captain a side that has just 134 Test caps and an average age of 24 among the starting XV.
Wings Travis Ismaiel and Makazole Mapimpi will get their first outing in a Bok jersey, joining centre Andre Esterhuizen, scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl, Sevens veteran and flank Kwagga Smith, lock Jason Jenkins and prop Ox Nche.
"As coaches, we are tremendously excited about the prospect of seeing some of our best young players getting the opportunity to play at this level," Erasmus said.
"Wales have a very solid and effective kicking strategy. Their cohesive forward and set-piece play are some of their main strong points. However, I do believe that we have picked a match-day squad that will be able to compete very strongly."
There are six uncapped players on the bench, including flyhalf Robert du Preez. If he makes it onto the pitch, it will be the first time in South African rugby history that a father and three sons have played for the national team. Robert senior and his other sons, Jean-Luc and Daniel, were Boks.
The match will be the second time that SA will face Wales at a neutral ground outside of a Rugby World Cup. They clashed at Wembley in London in 1998 during the construction of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. The Boks won 28-20.
The match will be a first in charge for Erasmus, who took over from Allister Coetzee earlier in 2018, tasked with rebuilding a Bok team that had won just 11 of their 25 Tests since the start of 2016.