Outstanding youngster Willie Le Roux, Bulls’ Jano Vermaak in Boks debuts
Eight changes in Durban line-up sees fresh faces in team that barely beat England last year
Fullback Willie le Roux and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak will make their test debuts for South Africa tomorrow against Italy in the opening round of a four-nation tournament.
Central Cheetahs utility back Le Roux, 23, has been the most exciting South African in the Super 15 this season and his call-up is sure to be warmly greeted by the public and media.
Northern Bulls' Vermaak, 28, who completed 100 Super Rugby appearances last month, has been knocking on the Springbok selection door for some time.
He will be partnered at halfback by recalled Morne Steyn, who was discarded last season as his goal-kicking form plummeted, but is back to his best in the Super 15 this year.
The starting XV for the test at Kings Park in Indian Ocean city Durban shows eight changes from that which pipped England 16-15 at Twickenham last November.
Captain and centre Jean de Villiers survives among the backs while forwards Adriaan Strauss, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Juandre Kruger, Francois Louw and Willem Ablerts remain.
Injuries ruled out right wing J.P.Pietersen, outside centre Juan de Jongh and No8 Duane Vermeulen from the London starting line-up.
Another two from that victorious team - flyhalf Patrick Lambie and scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar - are included among the eight replacements for the Italy test.
Fullback Zane Kirchner and left wing/scrumhalf Francois Hougaard are regaining fitness after injury lay-offs and France-based prop Gurthro Steenkamp was not called up.
"This was not an easy team to pick as I have been very impressed with the attitude shown by the players in training," coach Heyneke Meyer said after naming his side.
"I am very happy that we have managed to retain the core of the team from last year for the sake of continuity, but it is also great to see a bunch of new players emerge from Super Rugby.
"Up front, we managed to keep six of the eight who started against England, and at the back there are a number of very exciting players, who have earned their places."
The Springboks have won the previous 10 tests against Italy - six at home and four away - scoring an average of 53 points in generally one-sided games.
Samoa and Scotland are the other teams in the novel tournament and there will be further test double-headers on June 15 in Nelspruit and June 22 in Pretoria.