Rugby: Eight changes among injury-hit Springboks

Deon Stegmann. Photo / Supplied
Deon Stegmann. Photo / Supplied

Deon Stegmann is set to make his test debut for South Africa after the flanker was named in a much-altered side by coach Peter de Villiers for the Grand Slam tour-opening match against Ireland tomorrow morning in Dublin.

Stegmann is to replace injured back-row star Schalk Burger and utility back Patrick Lambie could also make his test debut for the world champions if centre Jean de Villiers fails to overcome a groin problem.

If de Villiers is ruled out, South Africa's team will show nine changes to the side that ended a dismal Tri-Nations with a 41-39 loss to Australia in September - the Springboks' fifth defeat in six matches in that tournament.

Victor Matfield, the experienced second rower, leads the side in place of regular skipper John Smit, missing the tour through injury.

Of the team that played against the Wallabies, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Matfield and Jannie du Plessis are all set to start.

Stegmann, 24, has been given his chance by the under-pressure coach de Villiers after Burger broke a rib in last weekend's domestic Currie Cup final.

Lambie, 20, man of the match in the Currie Cup final with 25 points for the victorious Sharks in a 30-10 win over Western Province, will, if given the chance, at least come into this weekend's match in form.

"It's a new-look side but with 13 season-ending injuries it couldn't be anything else," de Villiers said after announcing his side in Dublin yesterday. "But we're looking on the positive side and this is a great opportunity to test some new players in the toughest conditions," added the coach, whose position could be under threat ahead of next year's World Cup if the side fail to win at least two of their four upcoming tests against Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England.

Turning to Stegmann, de Villiers said: "Deon is an openside in the traditional style and has been outstanding for his province [Blue Bulls]."

South Africa only arrived in Dublin on Thursday, leaving little time to prepare a new-look side for what they hope will be the first leg of a successful "grand slam".

For all their recent success, it is 50 years since the Springboks last enjoyed a clean sweep of the Home Unions with Avril Malan leading the team to a quartet of victories.

Ireland, themselves on a five-match losing streak, will be aiming for their fourth straight win over South Africa.

Ireland v South Africa
Dublin, tomorrow 6.20am

Ireland
Robert Kearney
Tommy Bowe
B. O'Driscoll (c)
Gordon D'Arcy
Luke Fitzgerald
Jonathan Sexton
Eoin Reddan
Cian Healy
Rory Best
Tony Buckley
D. O'Callaghan
Mick O'Driscoll
Stephen Ferris
David Wallace
Jamie Heaslip
Reserves: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy, Peter Stringer, Ronan O'Gara, Keith Earls/Andrew Trimble/Paddy Wallace.

South Africa
Gio Aplon
Bjorn Basson
Zane Kirchner
de Villiers/ Lambie
Bryan Habana
Morne Steyn
Ruan Pienaar
Pierre Spies
Juan Smith
Deon Stegmann
Victor Matfield (c)
Bakkies Botha
Jannie du Plessis
B. du Plessis
Tendai Mtawarira
Reserves: Chiliboy Ralepelle, C.J. van der Linde, Flip van der Merwe, Willem Alberts/Keegan Daniel, Francois Hougaard, Adi Jacobs, Patrick Lambie/Lwazi Mvovo.

- AFP

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