Star South Africa forward Duane Vermeulen will make his first appearance for the Springboks since the 2019 World Cup as one of seven changes to the run-on side for their clash against Australia on Sunday.
The veteran back-rower had ankle surgery in June and, after missing the six-match home leg of the world champions’ season, will return for the round-three Rugby Championship match on the Gold Coast.
Scrumhalves Faf de Klerk and Herschel Jantjies, and flanker Marco van Staden are also back from injury as coach Jacques Nienaber makes 13 changes – seven to the starting lineup and six on the bench.
Five of the changes to the run-on side that beat Argentina 29-10 last month were among the forwards.
Vermeulen takes over from Jasper Wiese while Eben Etzebeth comes in for Marvin Orie at lock, and there is a new front row of Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Bongi Mbonambi.
In the backs, Sbu Nkosi replaces Cheslin Kolbe, who took a leg knock in training, on the right wing while de Klerk was favoured over Cobus Reinach.
“Duane has played an active role off the field in our team meetings and with the analysis of the opposition, and he has also provided guidance at training,” said Nienaber, whose squad are in quarantine, confined to their hotel and a nearby training field.
“He returned to full training when we arrived in Australia, so he has been in the thick of things for a while now.
“Duane, Faf and Herschel are Rugby World Cup winners, and so is Eben . . . while Marco has made a strong impact on the field this season as well, so we are pleased to have them back in the fold.”
It is a hugely experienced team with eight of the starters having played at least 50 times for South Africa.
They will face a relatively young Australian side coming off three defeats in a month against the All Blacks, including a 38-21 loss in Perth last weekend.
Despite this, South Africa assistant coach Deon Davids said they would not be underestimating the Wallabies.
“We won’t look too much into their past results because they played most of those matches against New Zealand, and with the team building, they can only grow,” he said.
South Africa are currently second on the Rugby Championship ladder, a point behind New Zealand after winning their opening two games at home against Argentina.
The remainder of the tournament is being held in Queensland due to coronavirus travel restrictions, with Sunday’s game the first time the Springboks will play in front of a crowd since the World Cup due to the pandemic.
South Africa (15-1)
Willie le Roux; Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi; Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Duane Vermeulen, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (capt); Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Ox Nche, Vincent Koch, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Jasper Wiese, Herschel Jantjies, Damian Willemse.