x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Rugby Championship: Injured du Plessis retains South Africa place

Heyneke Meyer, the South African coach, has made just two changes to the side that lost against Australia for the forthcoming match with New Zealand - with Jannie du Plessis being given a chance to prove his fitness.

South Africa's Tendai Mtawarira attempts a try during the Rugby Championship match with Australia
South Africa's Tendai Mtawarira attempts a try during the Rugby Championship match with Australia

Prop Jannie du Plessis has been included in the South African team to play the rampant All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday - despite struggling with a hamstring injury.

Coach Heyneke Meyer has made just two changes to the side that lost to Australia last weekend, with Flip van der Merwe coming in for suspended lock Eben Etzebeth and Francois Louw replacing Marcell Coetzee on the flank.

"New Zealand are best in contesting at the breakdown. We decided to go with Flo (Louw) because he's a specialist. It's a horses for courses approach," Meyer said.

"Marcell has been very good this season and has played a lot of rugby but in this match we feel he will be more useful as an impact option."

Meyer is confident Du Plessis, who has until Friday to prove his fitness, will take the field.

The Springboks are limited in the props they can call on with Pat Cilliers suffering from an elbow strain. Dean Greyling has been named on the bench but is a preferred loosehead,

"If Dean comes on it will be a huge, huge test, especially against the best loosehead (Tony Woodcock) in world rugby. But Dean has impact and he's fresh," said Meyer.

The 20-year-old Etzebeth was suspended for two weeks for headbutting Wallaby lock Nathan Sharpe during the Springboks' 26-19 defeat but Meyer said the experience of 17-Test van der Merwe would be important against the world champion All Blacks.

"Even having an experienced pack is a tough challenge against the All Blacks but we are excited," he said.

"I know people don't give us a chance but I believe this team is growing. They will have to step up. I have confidence in the pack."

The All Blacks lead the Rugby Championship with 12 points after three wins while South Africa are second on seven points followed by Australia (four points) and Argentina (two).

The New Zealand team will be named on Thursday.

South Africa team: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers (c), Frans Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Juandre Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Tiaan Liebenberg, Dean Greyling, Andries Bekker, Marcell Coetzee, Johan Goosen, Juan de Jongh, Patrick Lambie.