South Africa and Scotland are both hoping that new blood in their starting XVs will give them the edge in a one-off World Cup-tinged Test in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
South African coach Heyneke Meyer has selected world junior player of the year and baby Bok star five-eighth Handre Pollard to start for his first cap, a huge vote of confidence in the promising 20-year-old.
Pollard, who led South Africa to runners-up spot in the recent under-20 World Championship in New Zealand, will start in a side that sees five other changes from that which narrowly beat Wales 31-30 last week.
“Handre is a very talented player and has a big opportunity this week, but he’ll have Fourie du Preez’s experience next to him, while he’s played a lot with (centre) Jan Serfontein before,” said Meyer.
Coenie Oosthuizen, Lood de Jager, Marcell Coetzee, Schalk Burger and Lwazi Mvovo also come into the starting XV, as both coaches seek to blood new players ahead of next year’s World Cup.
“Our plans had always been to try a few new combinations this week against Scotland and I’m looking forward to see the guys grab their opportunities,” said Meyer.
Scottish coach Vern Cotter has made four changes for Saturday’s clash from the side that narrowly beat Argentina in Cordoba last week.
Henry Pyrgos will start at halfback in place of Grayson Hart, while Tim Swinson and Chris Fusaro start in the pack and 20-year-old Glasgow Warriors No.8 Adam Ashe makes his Test debut.
Ashe, currently based in New Zealand where he is on a short-term rugby scholarship, is the only new cap in the side and will famously be making his international debut before even starting a game for his club side.
Ashe “is a talented player and the reports of his form in New Zealand have been very positive”, said recently installed Cotter, who is hoping to continue his 100 per cent wining record with Scotland.
“He’s trained well with us and looked sharp. He is a specialist No 8 and this is a golden opportunity for him.”
Under Cotter’s tenure the Scots have beaten the United States, Canada and an under-strength Argentina.
But his men face a tough test against a South Africa side coming off the back of a two-nil Test sweep against Wales.