(SATSports) – Veteran number eight Duane Vermeulen will make his first appearance for South Africa since the 2019 World Cup final when the Springboks play Australia in the Rugby Championship on Sunday after he was named in the Boks’ starting XV.
Vermeulen replaces Jasper Wiese at the back of the scrum in one of seven changes made to the team that took to the field against Argentina last month for their second game of the tournament.
Vermeulen had been recovering from ankle surgery earlier this year and, even though he linked up with the Springboks squad at the beginning of the British & Irish Lions series last month, has not yet played a single match.
The other changes in the forward line see Eben Etzebeth replace Marvin Orie at lock, while props Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe and hooker Bongi Mbonambi form a new front-row.
Meanwhile, in the backline, Sbu Nkosi replaces Cheslin Kolbe, who suffered a knock to the leg during training, and Faf De Klerk returns in place of Cobus Reinach.
Other players who have returned from injury include scrum-half Herschel Jantjies and flank Marco van Staden. The duo form part of a strong bench which includes Malcolm Marx, Ox Nché, Vincent Koch, Wiese, Damian Willemse and Kwagga Smith.
Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber said he was happy to see the return of the experienced players against an Australian side that will pose a threat despite their recent results.
“We have been following the progress of the injured players on a daily basis, so we knew that we would be in a position to select most of them for this match,” Nienaber said.
“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. He returned to full training when we arrived in Australia, so he has been in the thick of things for a while now.”
“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, so we are pleased to have them back in the fold”.
Over the course of the next one month, South Africa will play back-to-back Tests against Australia before concluding the tournament with successive matches against New Zealand.