The first Test in Johannesburg is not only a new era for the Boks under Rassie Erasmus, but one for England coach Eddie Jones to get his team back to winning ways after a below par Six Nations.
Erasmus has managed to change a number of policies within SA Rugby in order to get the Springboks back to where they belong, however after a first defeat to Wales last weekend it has exposed their lack of depth.
That said his squad is depleted with Injuries that have ruled out some big players, with Malcolm Marx, Warren Whiteley, Bismarck du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager and Frans Steyn all on the sidelines, but there will be plenty of experience in the shape of Duane Vermeulen, Tendai Mtawarira, Willie le Roux and, of course, new captain Siya Kolisi.
Kolisi has not been in the best of form this season for the Stormers, however he does have the distinction of being the first black captain of the Boks, something that should lift his game come Saturday.
He will also be leading a team that will start with three uncapped players, S’busiso Nkosi, Aphiwe Dyantyi and RG Snyman. Wingers Nkosi and Dyantyi have been electric for the Sharks and Lions respectively, while Snyman, an imposing second row forward, has been brilliant for the Bulls all season and on form more than justifies his place.
Faf de Klerk deservedly gets a recall after being one of the leading players in the Premiership last season for Sale, while the experienced Willie Le Roux also makes a comeback after doing the same for Wasps.
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For Eddie Jones’ England this series is all about winning back the fans after recent losses to Scotland, France, Ireland and the Barbarians. They have lacked intensity, although under the leadership of the brilliant Owen Farrell this should change on Saturday. Farrell has been outstanding for Saracens this season and starts in midfield alongside Henry Slade.
England’s midfield will be up against an untried partnership of Lukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende an area you have to think England have the edge in terms of game management.
George Ford gets the nod at fly-half with Elliot Daly at 15. I do however feel Mike Brown’s selection on the wing is questionable. He is a fullback or nothing in my opinion and the Boks will see this as an area that can be exploited, especially with the pace they have out wide.
The forward battle looks interesting with the Boks going for plenty of physicality in the shape of Duane Vermeulen and Jean-Luc du Preez, both players knowing only one direction and are the Boks battering ram runners.
I expect the Boks to have the better in the set piece although if England can deal with the physical presence at the ruck they could edge this clash.
Saracens understandably have a clear presence in the team with Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, Jamie Geroge and Mako Vunipola dominating the forwards. All have been exceptional on their way to another Premiership title and their form could very well decide the forward battle.
My concern is England’s preparation has taken place at sea level with the game being played at altitude. Teams in the past have struggled in the last quarter of the game due to this fact, so expect the Boks to capitalize in the last 20.
With just one win in their last 10 over South Africa it is going to be tough to make that two considering the first clash is on the Highveld. The conditions are expected to be dry and perfect for an expansive game played at pace and I expect the Boks to drive home the advantage in the final quarter and go one up in the series.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 S’busiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane/Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw/Thomas du Toit, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Mike Brown, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Denny Solomona