Johannesburg — Bongi Mbonambi will become the second black Test captain of South Africa on Saturday when he leads the Springboks against Argentina in a Rugby World Cup warm-up match in Buenos Aires.
The inclusion of hooker Mbonambi, 32, is one of 13 changes to the team that beat the Pumas 22-21 in the final round of the Rugby Championship in Johannesburg last Saturday.
In 2018, Siya Kolisi became the first black player to skipper South Africa in a Test, leading his country to victory over England after trailing by 21 points during the first half.
Black players were excluded from the South African national team for 90 years until Errol Tobias was capped against Ireland in 1981.
Thereafter, progress toward a team that better reflected the demographics of a nation where 90 percent of the population is black was slow until Rassie Erasmus became coach five years ago.
A host of changes to the #Springboks team as more players are given a run in Buenos Aires – more here: https://t.co/EZ6M5JIKt7 🇿🇦#StrongerTogether pic.twitter.com/ySCA8FpAJv
— Springboks (@Springboks) August 1, 2023
Kolisi and Mbonambi were among six black starters in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final triumph over England in Japan.
Flanker Kolisi is recovering from a knee injury and was unavailable for the trip to South America, which will be followed by warm-up Tests against Wales and New Zealand in Europe.
Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber says he is hopeful that Kolisi and fly-half Handre Pollard, sidelined by a calf injury, will play against Wales and or New Zealand.
Fly-half Manie Libbok and lock Marvin Orie are the only starters from last weekend to retain their places in an experimental team with a number of stars remaining in South Africa.
Scrum-half Herschel Jantjies, uncapped prop Gerhard Steenekamp and loose forward Jean-Luc du Preez hope to make their first appearances of the season off the bench.
“We have been emphasising the importance of giving as many players as possible a fair chance to show what they can do with an eye on finalising our Rugby World Cup squad,” said Nienaber.
“We are pleased to give Herschel and Jean-Luc an opportunity to play in what is going to be a massive physical battle.
“There will be a lot of pressure on the players mentally and physically, which is exactly the type of situation we would like to see them in as we enter our World Cup warm-up games.”
🗣️ Jacques Nienaber perfectly describes a Top Dog when asked about captain Bongi Mbonambi. 🐶#ARGvRSA pic.twitter.com/k5BqokWdDf
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) August 2, 2023
South Africa have played nine Tests in Buenos Aires and won all of them, with a 16-point victory last year the most recent.
The match in the Argentina capital is the last before Nienaber names his 33-man squad on Tuesday for the September 8-October 28 World Cup in France.
Ireland, currently the top-ranked Test team, and South Africa are expected to qualify for the quarter-finals from Pool B at the expense of Scotland, Tonga and Romania.
Damian Willemse; Canan Moodie, Lukhanyo Am, Andre Esterhuizen, Makazole Mapimpi; Manie Libbok, Cobus Reinach; Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert, Deon Fourie; Marvin Orie, Jean Kleyn; Thomas du Toit, Bongi Mbonambi (capt), Trevor Nyakane
Replacements: Joseph Dweba, Gerhard Steenekamp, Vincent Koch, Jean-Luc du Preez, Evan Roos,Herschel Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Kurt-Lee Arendse
Coach: Jacques Nienaber (RSA)
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