South Africa left out some big names for their opening Rugby World Cup match against Japan, selecting a makeshift team on Wednesday that included a return for captain Jean de Villiers after recovering from a broken jaw.
The Springboks selected their most experienced ever lineup – containing 880 Test caps – for Saturday’s Pool B game in Brighton, but didn’t include lock Eben Etzebeth and No.8 Duane Vermeulen to give them more time off after recent calf and neck injuries, respectively.
Regular fullback Willie le Roux was also left out of the matchday squad, as was centre Damian de Allende, with Zane Kirchner and Jesse Kriel given run-outs.
Scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, a veteran of the World Cup-winning team from 2007, was in line for a first Test appearance in nearly a year after returning from injury to make the bench.
De Villiers starts after recovering from breaking his jaw at home to Argentina in the Rugby Championship last month, which marked his first Test in eight months after a serious knee injury.
In selecting an understrength side, South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer appeared to have one eye on the matches against Samoa and Scotland that likely will decide who qualifies from the pool and in which order.
The third-ranked Springboks are favourites to finish top.
“There will in all likelihood be changes again next week,” Meyer said, “but for now these players deserve another opportunity to stake a claim.”
Pat Lambie was given first shot at the No.10 jersey ahead of Handre Pollard, who was dropped during the Rugby Championship in which South Africa finished in last place.
It will be the first ever Test between South Africa and Japan, who are led by Eddie Jones, who coached Australia to the 2003 final and assisted the Springboks to the 2007 title.
“We play against the big teams from the southern and northern hemisphere quite often, and with them it’s mostly a case of you know what to expect,” Meyer said.
“But Japan will pose a different threat. They have a very astute coach in Eddie Jones, and our players who play in Japan have warned us to expect a very high tempo game and good, low tackling to stop momentum.”
South Africa: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jesse Kriel, Jean de Villiers (captain), Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar; Schalk Burger, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Victor Matfield, Lood de Jager, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Fourie du Preez, Handre Pollard, JP Pietersen.