(Reuters) – South Africa will have powerful number eight Duane Vermeulen back in their side for the Rugby Championship clash with Australia in Gold Coast on Sunday but have lost electric wing Cheslin Kolbe to a leg injury.
Vermeulen has missed the entire 2021 international season so far with an ankle injury, which means he has not played for the Springboks since a man of the match performance in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final victory over England.
His return will boost their forward pack, while he is also a dangerous runner with ball in hand.
“Duane has played an active role off the field in our team meetings and with the analysis of the opposition, and he has also provided guidance at training,” Bok coach Jacques Nienaber said in announcing the team on Wednesday.
“He returned to full training when we arrived in Australia, so he has been in the thick of things for a while now.”
Scrumhalves Faf de Klerk and Herschel Jantjies have also returned to the match-day squad after injury, along with flanker Marco van Staden, while lock Eben Etzebeth is back in the starting line-up after being rested.
“Duane, Faf and Herschel are Rugby World Cup winners, and so is Eben, who is back after we rotated him to manage his workload, while Marco has made a strong impact on the field this season as well,” Nienaber said.
Kolbe is a key attacking weapon for the Boks, but injured his leg in training on Friday and has been replaced by Sbu Nkosi on the wing.
“Unfortunately, we lost Cheslin to injury, but we are fortunate to have Sbu who steps in. He’s been working hard at training and he is eager to get back on the field,” the coach added.
The Boks won back-to-back matches against Argentina at the start of the Rugby Championship, but face a step up in quality with their next two games against Australia and then two more versus New Zealand.
“We will be tested thoroughly in the next four weeks, so we have to be up for the challenge mentally and physically,” Nienaber conceded.
Team: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-S’bu Nkosi, 13-Lukhanyo Am, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Makazole Mapimpi, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Faf de Klerk, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Franco Mostert, 6-Siya Kolisi (captain), 5-Lood de Jager, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Frans Malherbe, 2-Bongi Mbonambi, 1-Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16-Malcolm Marx, 17-Ox Nche, 18-Vincent Koch, 19-Marco van Staden, 20-Kwagga Smith, 21-Jasper Wiese, 22-Herschel Jantjies, 23-Damian Willemse.
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
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