CAPE TOWN – Springbok captain Sita Kolisi says their Rugby Championship-opener against Argentina at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tomorrow (kick-off 5.05pm) is no less important than their British & Irish Lions games.
The Boks will take on Los Pumas in their first match since winning the Lions Series 2-1 in stunning fashion in Cape Town.
While nobody would come down on you harshly for seeing this game as an ‘easier’ or ‘less important’ one, during the Captain’s press conference yesterday, Kolisi said it’s actually the quite opposite.
“We enjoyed ourselves and celebrated (the Series victory), but on Sunday we were already looking at clips of Argentina because we know this is a completely different challenge and we can’t prepare any less than we did before.
“Argentina are going to come out to prove a point, so we have to be ready.
“We don’t want to be a once-off team, we need to make sure that we stay at number one. We want to be in that position for as long as we can. We want to win games, we want to win trophies, that’s how you get to number one and that’s how you stay there.”
The Boks have made sweeping changes for the clash.
Exciting hooker Joseph Dweba will make his international debut in a front row featuring Ox Nche and Wilco Louw, while there are also a number of returnees to the run-on side.
On the make-up of the squad, Kolisi said: “It’s a great opportunity for the guys who are starting. It’s a first start for Joseph and Aphelele (Fassi) and Sbu (Nkosi) are also back, and then there’s Frans Steyn who hasn’t played in a while, so I am excited for the guys.
“I thought Joseph’s week went well. Hooker is an important position, when it comes to scrumming we look to him, but Ox and Wilco will work with him when it comes to the scrum battle. It doesn’t matter if you’re the captain or not, in certain areas we know who leads and we all listen. We have tried to make it special for him and I think he enjoyed it, now he just needs to step into the field.
“It has been a journey and a half for him (Dweba), he had to go overseas to get to this point, so I am very excited for him.”
The Bok loose trio is very different to the one that featured so prominently at the World Cup, with Jasper Wiese and Kwagga Smith coming in alongside Kolisi in the place of the injured Duane Vermeulen and Pieter-Steph du Toit.
While it’s been different, Kolisi explained that they all know what they have to do against the Argentinians.
“I think myself and Kwagga work well together, and Jasper is getting more comfortable every week. We’re not going to change the way we play, but we might have to be sharper. Argentina named their strongest side available and it's going to be tough at the breakdowns.
“It’s a challenge to play against them, we have had a lot of tough battles. They pride themselves on their mauling and scrumming, so we are very similar in that regard, we both also focus on the breakdowns.”
South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Dan du Preez, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Morne Steyn.
Argentina: 15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Santiago Chocobares, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Matias Moroni, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8, Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Facundo Isa, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Substitutes: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Carlos Muzzio, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Tomas Lavanini, 20 Matias Alemanno, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere.