Schalk Brits will become the second oldest captain in Springbok history when he leads South Africa against Argentina on Saturday.
Hooker Brits, at 38 years and three months, has been chosen to lead the Boks in the Test at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, as he makes his first start for the national team in over 10 years.
Victor Matfield was almost three months older than Brits when he skippered the Springboks in the 2015 Rugby World Cup third-place match, but Brits becomes the oldest man to be a first-time captain of the team.
With World Cup places at stake, coach Rassie Erasmus has selected a strong yet experimental side, challenging some of his players to prove they deserve a seat on the plane to Japan.
Erasmus said it was “make or break” for a number of the players, as he prepares to finalise his tournament squad.
BREAKING! Boks name formidable pack and dangerous backs for Pretoria
Unique new record for Schalk Brits
Cameo role planned for Siya Kolisi
Potential Test debut for Scarra Ntubeni
— Springboks (@Springboks) August 14, 2019
The pack shows changes following the Boks’ Rugby Championship triumph, with flanker Siya Kolisi, number eight Marcell Coetzee and prop Thomas du Toit named in the starting XV, with Wilco Louw – another prop – and back-rower Marco van Staden on the bench.
Kolisi, coming back from a knee injury, is the team’s regular captain but may only last for part of the first half as Erasmus eases him back into the team.
“I’ve asked Siya to empty his tank and go as hard for as long as he can,” Erasmus said.
“I’ve told him he might even come off in the first half. He has played less than 50 minutes of Currie Cup rugby in the last 12 weeks but I needed him to have a taste of Test rugby again before we leave for Japan.”
Cobus Reinach gets a chance to impress at scrum-half, with fly-half Elton Jantjies primed to take over the captaincy if – as seems likely – South Africa replace Brits with the uncapped Scarra Ntubeni during the match.
Herschel Jantjies is ruled out after taking a blow to the head in training that is not expected to affect his World Cup chances.
Erasmus urged his players to raise their level for what is their last match before heading to Japan.
He said: “No matter what has happened before this weekend, the momentum we will go to the World Cup with will depend on what happens on Saturday.
“Some of these players will know they are on the plane but for others it is make or break – and even if they don’t make the plane there will be six standby roles to be identified.”
South Africa team to play Argentina: Warrick Gelant, Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen, Dillyn Leyds, Elton Jantjies, Cobus Reinach; Thomas du Toit, Schalk Brits, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Lood de Jager, Siya Kolisi, Rynhardt Elstadt, Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Lizo Gqoboka, Wilco Louw, Marvin Orie, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk, Frans Steyn.