Ireland will be without injured fullback Jared Payne for Saturday’s third and final Test against South Africa but have brought back five regulars to strengthen their side for the decisive match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
A calf injury ruled out the New Zealand-born back, who usually plays centre for Ireland but has been outstanding in the first two encounters at fullback.
It means a first start for Tiernan O’Halloran, who had just three minutes off the bench last Saturday for Ireland in their 32-26 second Test defeat to South Africa at Ellis Park.
Coach Joe Schmidt recalled Mike Ross in the front row, flankers CJ Stander and Jordi Murphy and returned Iain Henderson from the loose trio to lock in changes among the forwards, while bringing back Keith Earls on the wing.
Luke Marshall replaces the injured Robbie Henshaw, who went home for possible knee surgery after being injured at the weekend, at centre.
South African-born Stander had been suspended for the second Test after being sent off early in the first match at Newlands, which Ireland won 26-20.
The changes allow for an element of freshness which Schmidt said on Thursday was necessary.
“It’s been a long season and there are a lot of tired bodies. Maybe that’s going to detract from the performance and they won’t be at their optimum,” he told a news conference.
“However, you might not be able to detect that, as while they might not have the reserves of fresh energy, they should make up for it with their commitment.”
Schmidt said South Africa had got better as the series progressed.
“I said it at the start, Allister Coetzee has just started with this group, and it will take time to build momentum. I really hope they don’t play with too much rhythm and synergy this weekend, though,” he added.
“Hopefully we can do our bit to influence how they play.”
Ireland: Tiernan O’Halloran, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding, Keith Earls, Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Jordi Murphy, CJ Stander, Devin Toner Iain Henderson, Mike Ross, Rory Best (capt), Jack McGrath. Replacements: Sean Cronin, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Furlong, Ultan Dillane, Rhys Ruddock, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Matt Healey.