Rugby Championship preview

Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje makes his first Test start for the Springboks in Cape Town on Saturday against Australia in the fifth round of the Rugby Championship.
The Cheetah’s flanker is one of three changes that Heyneke Meyer has made to the starting XV with Francois Hougaard getting the nod at scrum-half over the unavailable Ulster No.9 Ruan Pienaar.
Injury to Bath’s Francois Louw means a positional switch to openside for Marcell Coetzee. There are a further four changes on the bench with Cobus Reinach in line to make his Springbok debut alongside experienced trio of Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger and JP Pietersen.
“Injuries forced our hand with Francois and Ruan Pienaar not available, but Hougie and Oupa have been part of the squad for the entire season and I’ve got the utmost confidence in them making the step up,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Francois brings different strengths to the team at No.9 and has an opportunity to demonstrate the contribution he can make on Saturday, while Oupa is more of a traditional blindside flanker who will get another opportunity to show what he can do.
“We felt we needed a couple of cool and experienced heads late in our matches and that is where Bakkies, Schalk, JP, Pat Lambie and Bismarck du Plessis will play a vital role – all of them have more than 30 caps.
“I’m also very happy for Cobus, who will follow in the footsteps of his late father having never even played first team at school or any national representative rugby, which is a great compliment for the structures at the Sharks.”
“It’s great to be back in South Africa after three tough matches on the road and we’re really looking forward to playing in front of our own supporters again.
Meanwhile, Australia have made three changes to the side that beat Argentina with hooker Saia Fainga’a selected to start for the first time in four years, with vice-captain Adam Ashley-Cooper returning from injury and Joe Tomane replacing Rob Horne.
“We’ve been really impressed with the effort [Fainga’a] has put in off the field recently, and he’ll be determined to make the most of this opportunity,” coach Ewen McKenzie said.
Another surprised came as McKenzie recalled veteran prop Benn Robinson in place of Pek Cowan on the bench, explaining: “Benn is someone who we have always said wasn’t out of the selection picture, and we’ve been pleased with the improvements he has made.”
South Africa: Willie le Roux; Cornal Hendricks, Jan Serfontein, Jean de Villiers (Capt.), Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Francois Hougaard; Tendai Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Jannie du Plessis; Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield; Marcell Coetzee, Teboho Mohoje, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Trevor Nyakane, Marcel van der Merwe, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, JP Pietersen.
Australia: Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Joe Tomane; Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; James Slipper, Saia Fainga’a, Sekope Kepu; Sam Carter, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy; Michael Hooper (Capt.), Ben McCalman.
Replacements: James Hanson, Benn Robinson, Ben Alexander, James Horwill, Scott Higginbotham, Nic White, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne.
Argentina v New Zealand
Beauden Barrett is chosen at fly-half as the All Blacks head to Argentina to play in the fifth round of the Rugby Championship in La Plata on Saturday.
The Hurricanes’ outside-half replaces Aaron Cruden who was suspended from the side after failing to turn up for the flight to South America following a night out drinking. This is one of five changes Steve Hansen has introduced to the side following their 14-10 win over the Springboks.
With Dan Coles returning home early for the birth of his first child, hooker Nathan Harris will wear the No.2 jersey to make his international debut.
Malakai Fekitoa will start at inside centre after Ma’a Nonu was ruled out for the season with a broken arm he picked up against South Africa a fortnight ago.
Hansen recalled loose forward Jerome Kaino who was injured against Australia at the end of August, while Sam Whitelock also replaces Jeremy Thrush in the second row after recovering from a rib cartilage injury.
“Though it’s disappointing having Ma’a injured, it is a great opportunity for [Fekitoa] and one I’m sure he will take,” Hansen said.
“We’ve known that we were going to have to bring Nathan in for the next leg so we’re just going one game earlier. It’s not too big of an adjustment at all really. We’ve been training for it; you expected the unexpected. We’ve planned for it and it’s happened.
“I’m looking forward to it actually. It’s taken a long time to get him to this point. If he gets through the next two games I’m sure he’s going to be a great All Black because they will be the biggest tests he’ll ever have.”
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Wyatt Crockett, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks; Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (Capt.), Kieran Read.
Replacements: Nathan Harris, Joe Moody, Ben Franks, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Colin Slade, Cory Jane.
LISA GWAWR THOMAS
LISA GWAWR THOMAS

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