(Reuters) - South Africa will be without injured hooker Malcolm Marx for their revenge mission against Italy in Padua on Saturday, handing a first test start to Bongi Mbonambi.
Marx has been a standout performer for the Springboks in 2017 with his strength at the scrum and ferocity in the loose, both with ball in hand and as a fetcher at the rucks. But he is not being risked after picking up a shoulder injury in the 18-17 win over France in Paris last weekend.
Mbonambi is replaced on the bench by Chiliboy Ralepelle, who has served a two-year drugs ban, and will earn his 13th test cap, with all his previous 12 coming as a replacement.
He is one of two changes to the starting XV from coach Allister Coetzee.
The other sees versatile forward Pieter-Steph du Toit, who has recovered from a concussion, replace Siya Kolisi in the number seven jersey, with the latter having returned to Cape Town for the birth of his daughter.
”Bongi has worked hard and I have no doubt he will grab this opportunity with both hands, as will Chiliboy, should he get a run,” Coetzee said in a media release from South African Rugby on Thursday.
Uncapped fullback Warrick Gelant has been included on the bench.
“Warrick is in good form and his work-rate during training has been impressive. I know he will add value and I am very excited for the possibility of seeing him in action,” Coetzee said.
Italy provided one of the Boks’ darkest days in what was a horror year in 2016 with a 20-18 victory in Florence the last time these teams met, their first win over the South Africans.
Despite the narrow victory over France last time out, Coetzee remains under pressure after another season of racking up milestones for the wrong reasons, including record defeats to New Zealand and Ireland.
Another loss to Italy on Saturday could spell the end of his two seasons in charge.
The Boks have one more game on their tour when they play Wales in Cardiff on Dec. 2.
15-Andries Coetzee, 14-Dillyn Leyds, 13-Jesse Kriel, 12-Francois Venter, 11-Courtnall Skosan, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Ross Cronje, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Lood de Jager, 4-Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3-Wilco Louw, 2-Bongi Mbonambi, 1-Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16-Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17-Steven Kitshoff, 18-Trevor Nyakane, 19-Franco Mostert, 20-Dan du Preez, 21-Rudy Paige, 22-Elton Jantjies, 23-Warrick Gelant.
Reporting By Nick Said Editing by Jeremy Gaunt