South Africa ‘A’ head coach Mzwandile Stick made five changes to his starting team to face the Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate Stadium on Thursday, which includes Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Marco van Staden earning starts in a squad that features 12 capped Springboks.
Mngomezulu joined the SA ‘A’ team in Bristol on Sunday after spending the last two weeks with the Boks in Dublin and Toulon, while Van Staden joined the SA ‘A’ team after being ruled out of Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber’s original 35-man Autumn Nations Series travelling squad due to a rib injury.
Mngomezulu replaces Johan Goosen at flyhalf in a new halfback pairing with Grant Williams, while the only other change among the backs is at fullback, where Gianni Lombard takes over from Aphelele Fassi, who injured an ankle injury in the team’s 28-14 defeat against Munster last Thursday.
The changes in the forward pack were at hooker, where Andre-Hugo Venter is named in place of Joseph Dweba, who is on standby for the Springbok squad, with Van Staden replacing Phepsi Buthelezi at flank.
Stick opted for a split of six forwards and two backs on the bench, where JJ Kotze (hooker), Mornay Smith, Simphiwe Matanzima (both props), Dan du Preez (utility forward), Sikhumbuzo Notshe, and Buthelezi (both loose forwards) will provide cover, with Sanele Nohamba and Goosen (utility backs).
“It was always our intention to give everyone in the squad game time on this tour to assess our player resources and see what the players have to offer at this level,” said Stick.
“This week we will hand a few different players starting berths as the demands are different on players from the starting team and the bench.
“This is a very talented group of players and they have had a little more time to gel in the last few days after having very little time together before the Munster game, and we are confident that this will show when they take the field against Bristol.
“One of the changes was obviously injury-enforced with Aphelele ruled out, and this offered us an opportunity give Sacha some game time after watching from the sidelines in the last two Bok Test matches. He has really impressed the Springbok coaching staff at training with his skills and enthusiasm and we saw what he produced for the Junior Springboks and DHL Stormers, so we are excited to see him playing flyhalf in this match.
“Joseph, meanwhile, is on standby for the Springboks depending on the injury status in their camp and this sees Andre-Hugo earn a start at hooker and JJ get a run off the bench.”
Stick expected another tough test against Bristol, although he said they would pose a different challenge to Munster.
“Bristol are coached by Pat Lam and with his New Zealand background, he enjoys skillful running rugby, so we are expecting the pace of this game to be faster,” said Stick.
“From our perspective, we also have exciting backs and mobile forwards, and they certainly have the ability to keep up with this and make their presence felt.”
Zoning in on their game Stick said: “We did several encouraging things on attack last week and our defence was solid at times, so the main aspects for us this week is to be a more cohesive unit on the field and to use the chances we create on attack.
“The weather conditions resulted in several knock-ons at crucial times on attack last week, and that cost us dearly, so we need to be more accurate at converting those chances into points this week.”
South Africa ‘A’ team to face Bristol:
15 – Gianni Lombard (Emirates Lions)
14 – Suleiman Hartzenberg (DHL Stormers)
13 – Henco van Wyk (Emirates Lions)
12 – Cornal Hendricks* (Vodacom Bulls)
11 – Leolin Zas (DHL Stormers)
10 – Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (DHL Stormers)
9 – Grant Williams* (Cell C Sharks)
8 – Jean-Luc du Preez* (Sale Sharks)
7 – Elrigh Louw* (Vodacom Bulls)
6 – Marco van Staden* (Vodacom Bulls)
5 – Ruan Nortje* (Vodacom Bulls)
4 – Jason Jenkins* (Leinster)
3 – Thomas du Toit* (captain, Cell C Sharks)
2 – Andre-Hugo Venter (DHL Stormers)
1 – Ntuthuko Mchunu* (Cell C Sharks)
16 – JJ Kotze (DHL Stormers)
17 – Simphiwe Matanzima (Vodacom Bulls)
18 – Mornay Smith (Vodacom Bulls)
19 – Dan du Preez* (Sale Sharks)
20 – Sikhumbuzo Notshe* (Cell C Sharks)
21 – Phepsi Buthelezi (Cell C Sharks)
22 – Sanele Nohamba (Emirates Lions)
23 – Johan Goosen* (Vodacom Bulls)
*Denotes capped Springboks