Ivan van Zyl will start just his second Test match after being named at scrum-half for South Africa’s opening November international against England at Twickenham.
Because Saturday’s match at Twickenham falls outside World Rugby’s official November window for internationals, South Africa have been unable to select their overseas-based players.
That means fullback Willie le Roux and scrum-half Faf de Klerk, who play in the English Premiership for Wasps and Sale respectively, miss out with their places taken by Damian Willemse and van Zyl respectively.
Van Zyl’s only Test start to date came against Wales in Washington DC in June and he has made three Springbok appearances in total.
Embrose Papier, who had been South Africa’s reserve scrum-half for their previous two Tests, remains on the bench despite de Klerk’s absence.
“I just think conditions and the tactical way England will play, maybe Ivan is a better fit for the start,” South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus told reporters in London on Thursday when asked why he had opted for Blue Bulls No 9 van Zyl over Papier.
“Embrose is a more instinctive player which is great on the hard ground, and he’ll definitely have an impact on this game.
“But I thought in these conditions and the way we want to play against England it was worth going with Ivan.”
Willemse will be winning his fourth cap but making his maiden Test start after three appearances off the bench.
“Damian is very comfortable in the set-up,” said Erasmus.
“We have always had Willie le Roux available previously, but Damian deserves his chance now.
“With the World Cup in mind it’s going to be good for the whole team,” Erasmus explained, with Twickenham set to be full to its 82,000 capacity as both sides begin their countdown to next year’s global showpiece in Japan.
“He’s going to play in front of a full house with lots of pressure and a tough kicking game,” the coach added of Willemse.
“So we’ll learn a lot about him and he deserves his chance.”
The Springboks beat England 2-1 in a three-Test series in South Africa in June, although England won the third match 25-10 in Cape Town.
In September South Africa produced a superb performance to beat world champions New Zealand 36-34 in Wellington, while their last match saw them narrowly lose 32-30 to the All Blacks in a return Rugby Championship fixture in Pretoria last month.
In all they have made seven changes to their starting XV since that agonising defeat, with No 8 Warren Whiteley and Duane Vermeulen returning to a revamped back-row that features captain Siya Kolisi at openside flanker.
Pieter-Steph du Toit moves from the back-row to partner Eben Etzebeth at lock.
Whiteley has recovered from the groin injury which ruled him out of the Springboks’ last two Tests, against Australia and New Zealand, while Vermeulen missed the entire Rugby Championship campaign after playing a key role in South Africa’s series win over England.
In the backs, Willemse is set for a starting debut after three previous Test appearances off the bench, while Sbu Nkosi returns in place of Cheslin Kolbe at right wing.
Saturday’s clash will be the first of four Tests for the Springboks on their European tour, with South Africa also playing France, Scotland and Wales.
South Africa team to play England (15-1)
Damian Willemse; Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi; Handré Pollard Ivan van Zyl; Warren Whiteley Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi (capt); Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff
Replacements : Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Wilco Louw, RG Snyman, Lood de Jager, Embrose Papier, Elton Jantjies, André Esterhuizen.