Coach Jacques Nienaber Springbok threw a massive Curveball on Tuesday afternoon, naming a heavily altered team for the second Test against Wales at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
During his tenure, Ninaber was known for his safe team selection, tendency to stick with an experienced group of regulars, and little change between games.
However, it all flew out the window in unexpected command announcementwith 14 changes made towards the launch, Eben Ezebet was the sole survivor of first test winand five more new faces on the bench, representing 19 substitutions compared to 23 last week.
Subs Malcolm Marks and Vincent Kok are the other survivors on the bench from last weekend, while the first challenge hero Damian Willems also falls on the bench.
Handre Pollard returns to the starting XI after missing the first Test to become team captain, with URC breakout star Evan Roos debuting at number eight.
Marcell Coetzee, Warrick Gelant and André Esterhuizen also welcome the return to the Bock squad, having been out of the squad for several years.
In total, six debutants were named in the 23rd match. Along with Roos, Kurt-Lee Arendse gets a chance to start on the wing, while Ntutuko Mchunu, Rouen Nortier, Deon Fourier and Grant Williams are on the bench.
The announcement signals a big change in the mindset of Bock’s leadership, which has been fairly consistent over the past few years, although Ninaber explained that they have full confidence in the chosen side.
“We want to gain momentum and our main strategic goal is to win, so we pick a side because we believe they can beat Wales,” Ninaber said.
“You may ask why don’t we end the series and try them in the last test, but we want to see how these players perform under pressure.
“If we’re going to take them to the World Cup (next year), if we’re going to play them against New Zealand, they have to be able to perform under pressure.”
Ninaber also insisted that team selection was not up to the players and had always been a plan from the start of the season, but whether they could implement that plan depended on the team doing business in the first Test.
“The team that played on Saturday made it possible. We had a plan with all 42 players on the roster and we told them about it from day one,” Ninaber said.
“So everyone knew that this was the plan, but obviously you don’t know if it will be feasible and if you can execute it. The win on Saturday gave us that opportunity.”