For the first time in 20 months, the Springboks have named a match day 23 to take to the field. Much has changed since the Rugby World Cup Final, but new Head Coach, Jacques Nienaber has pulled of an excellent balancing act when he names his side for Friday nights clash against Georgia. Whilst the team boasts 18 World Cup winners, there are 3 debutants in the side, two in the run on team and one on the bench.
The two wings are both on debut and they are Rosco Specman and Aphelele Fassi. They have big boots to fill as the last players to wear 11 and 14 were Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, who each scored a try in the final. Both are anchored by seasoned fullback Willie Le Roux who will look to guide the players through their first taste of test rugby. On the bench we have loose forward Jasper Wiese who has been in fine form in Europe and will be eager to take to the field later in the game.
Rosco Specman is no stranger to rugby on the highest stage having represented the Blitboks in the Olympics' as well as turning out in many major tournaments for the side. Having transitioned to the full 15 man format of the game, he has finally earned a test call up at the age of 32. Specman plays for the Cheetahs domestically but has been on loan with the Stormers in order to get some much needed match time. He will be looking to light up the backline with his elusive footwork and strong aerial game.
Aphelele Fassi is making his first appearance on the wing, after turning out predominantly at full back for the Sharks. The player stands in for Mapimpi who is self isolating after being deemed a close contact to the 3 Springboks who tested positive on Sunday. Fassi is known for his electric pace and ability to break the defensive line and will be hoping his forwards are able to create space out wide for him to impress.
Jasper Wiese is a former Cheetahs player who now ply's his trade for Leicester Tigers. At 1.9m tall and 110kg, Wiese is the epitome of what a South African loose forward is and will have his work cut out for him if he takes the field against a physically combative Georgia. With Francois Louw having hung up his boots, there are places up for grabs in the Bok's loose trio and Wiese now has his chance to stake a claim.
All in all there is a fair balance between building squad cohesion ahead of the Lions series and the need to test out new talent and build squad depth. The three debutants have their work cut out for them and I can't wait to see that they deliver in the Green and Gold.