SYDNEY (AP) — South Africa made sweeping changes to its starting 15 on Tuesday — nine in all — after losing to Australia 25-17 left the world champion bottom of the Rugby Championship after three rounds.
Prop Ox Nche, hooker Joseph Dweba, No. 8 Duane Vermeulen, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and wing Warrick Gelant lost their places for the second game against the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday.
Flyhalf Handré Pollard, center Lukhanyo Am and flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit were all ruled out with knee injuries and backup flyhalf Elton Jantjies has a hand injury.
Under pressure for the first time since taking over as coach, Jacques Nienaber moved Damian Willemse from fullback to start at flyhalf and brought 19-year-old Canan Moodie in on the right wing for his test debut.
Willie le Roux returned at fullback, Jesse Kriel replaced Am at outside center, and Jaden Hendrikse was in for de Klerk at scrumhalf.
The Springboks also have a new loose forward combination, with No. 8 Jasper Wiese and Franco Mostert joining captain Siya Kolisi in the back row.
Prop Steven Kitshoff and hooker Malcolm Marx were recalled to start in the front row.
The Springboks have lost back-to-back games against New Zealand and Australia and were 25-3 down against the Wallabies in Adelaide before two late tries from replacement Kwagga Smith.
Nienaber is facing criticism at home that his tendency to make regular changes to his starting lineup is disruptive, although he's defended his decisions as necessary to find the best combinations to defend the Rugby World Cup in France next year.
Saturday's test in Sydney will be a big challenge at flyhalf for Willemse, who is one of the Springboks players to impress this year but who has played most of his top-level rugby at fullback or center.
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Damian Willemse, Jaden Hendrikse; Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff. Reserves: Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Kwagga Smith, Duane Vermeulen, Cobus Reinach, Frans Steyn, Warrick Gelant.
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