Boks pick Brits at No 8 in wholesale changes for Namibia clash

Schalk Brits takes a picture with fans after the game Reuters.
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Experienced hooker Schalk Brits will move from the front to the back of the scrum as South Africa made 13 changes to their side for the Rugby World Cup Pool B clash with minnows Namibia in Toyota City on Saturday.

Brits is a surprise pick at number eight for the Springboks and will also captain the side in what has been dubbed the ‘African Derby’, with coach Rassie Erasmus rotating his squad from the selection that lost 23-13 in their opener to New Zealand in Yokohama.

The only two players retained in the run-on side are wing Makazole Mapimpi and outside centre Lukhanyo Am.

There has been talk of Brits’ qualities as a loose-forward for some years in South Africa, and with hookers Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi ahead of him in the pecking order to start, Erasmus is keen to give the 38-year-old a run.

“To have 31 years guys here for what is hopefully eight weeks in total, you have to rotate your hookers and when you have a third hooker, he maybe doesn’t get game-time,” Erasmus said.

“It is also vital to give guys like (loose-forwards) Duane Vermeulen and Pieter-Steph du Toit a rest, and with his (Brits’) experience and calming factor for these guys, who you could almost call the fringe players, he has a positive effect on them.

“We will give Bongi Mbonambi 60 or 70 minutes and then move Schalk to hooker to finish the game.”

Fullback Warrick Gelant and wing Sbu Nkosi make up the back three along with Mapimpi, while 2007 World Cup winner Frans Steyn will partner Am in the midfield.

There is a new half-back pairing with the two ‘Jantjies’, Elton and Herschel, while Francois Louw and Kwagga Smith join Brits in the back-row of the scrum.

RG Snyman and Lood de Jager are the locks, and the front-row includes props Vincent Koch and Tendai Mtawarira alongside Mbonambi.

“This is a Springbok team that is hungry to play and show what they can do, and the majority of them have had the chance to play as a combination together a couple of times this season,” Erasmus said.

“They’ve got an important job to do: you always lose momentum in a defeat and we need to regain that with a victory and a strong performance.

“There’s a good blend of serious experience and serious talent in this line-up and I’m looking forward to seeing them perform.”

Team: 15-Warrick Gelant, 14-Sbu Nkosi, 13-Lukhanyo Am, 12-Francois Steyn, 11-Makazole Mapimpi, 10-Elton Jantjies, 9-Herschel Jantjies, 8-Schalk Brits (captain), 7-Kwagga Smith, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Lood de Jager, 4-RG Snyman, 3-Vincent Koch, 2-Bongi Mbonambi, 1-Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16-Steven Kitshoff, 17-Thomas du Toit, 18-Eben Etzebeth, 19-Siya Kolisi, 20-Franco Mostert, 21-Cobus Reinach, 22-Damian de Allende, 23-Cheslin Kolbe.