November 1, 2018 / 2:57 PM / 19 days ago

Vermeulen back for Boks as Erasmus shuffles pack for England

LONDON (Reuters) - Powerhouse loose-forward Duane Vermeulen was picked at flanker as South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus shuffled his pack for their opening November international against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby Test - Ireland v South Africa - Cape Town South Africa - 11/06/16. South Africa's Duane Vermeulen is tackled by Ireland's Conor Murray. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Vermeulen returns after missing the Rugby Championship while on club duty in Japan, with his regular number eight position filled by Warren Whiteley.

The pair will partner captain Siya Kolisi in what is a new-look back row for a Springbok side unable to select their overseas-based players as the fixture falls outside of the designated international window.

Vermeulen was arguably the Boks’ stand-out player in their 2-1 home series win over England in June, and he will be a key figure at the breakdown with Kolisi likely to play a bigger role with the ball in hand.

Vermeulen’s selection sees Pieter-Steph du Toit return to lock, where he will partner Stormers team mate Eben Etzebeth, while there is no change to the front row of Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Frans Malherbe.

Handre Pollard was retained at flyhalf and Ivan van Zyl will earn a second start at scrumhalf, an area where the Boks are lacking experience without Faf de Klerk, who is unavailable, and Ross Cronje (injured).

Van Zyl has been chosen for his kicking ability out of hand, which Erasmus believes will be a key decider in the game.

“This match will be a huge tactical affair with much of the outcome depending on how you handle the set phases and kicking game,” he said in a statement.

There is also little experience in the back three, with the mercurial Damian Willemse earning a first start at fullback, while wings Sbu Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi only have 12 caps between them.

Dyantyi has been a revelation for the side this season though and will be a key attacking weapon for a Bok back-three bristling with talent, but who are all playing their first test in the Northern Hemisphere having debuted this year.

Team: 15-Damian Willemse, 14-Sbu Nkosi, 13-Jesse Kriel, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Ivan van Zyl, 8-Warren Whiteley, 7-Duane Vermeulen, 6-Siya Kolisi (captain), 5-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Frans Malherbe, 2-Malcolm Marx, 1-Steven Kitshoff

Replacements: 16-Bongi Mbonambi, 17-Thomas du Toit, 18-Wilco Louw, 19-RG Snyman, 20-Lood de Jager, 21-Embrose Papier, 22-Elton Jantjies, 23-Andre Esterhuizen.

Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis

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