ROME, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Reeling South Africa having received a selection boost after experienced winger Bryan Habana was named on Thursday by coach Allister Coetzee to face Italy in Florence on Saturday.
The return of Habana in place of JP Pietersen is one of two changes to the starting line-up from the side that lost 37-21 to England last weekend, a sixth defeat in 10 tests for the Springboks in 2016.
The other sees Nizaam Carr make a first start for the side at flanker as South African Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit moves to the second row in place of Eben Etzebeth who has concussion.
Habana missed the defeat at Twickenham following a knee injury.
“He (Habana) has been training hard all week and without any discomfort, so he is good to go,” Coetzee said in a statement.
“Pieter-Steph has an impressive workrate and I am expecting him to deliver the same at number four against a lively Italian pack of forwards.
“With him moving to lock, we felt Nizaam was the right person to start in the number six jersey as he did well when he came off the bench against England. Apart from his speed, he also makes the right decisions at the breakdown.”
Coetzee also made three changes to his bench as prop Trevor Nyakane, loose-forward Oupa Mohoje and flyhalf Elton Jantjies return to the match 23.
Coetzee has come under intense pressure after a dismal year for the Boks that also included a record 57-15 home defeat by New Zealand last month.
“We have gone for continuity, taking into account that this current squad have only been together for one week before the match against England,” Coetzee said.
“Italy will be determined to bounce back after their (68-10) loss to New Zealand (last week). I have said before that there is no easy test, and we expect a tough battle.”
Team: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-Ruan Combrinck, 13-Francois Venter, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Patrick Lambie, 9-Rudy Paige, 8-Warren Whiteley, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Nizaam Carr, 5-Lood de Jager, 4-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3-Vincent Koch, 2-Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1-Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16-Bongi Mbonambi, 17-Steven Kitshoff, 18-Trevor Nyakane, 19-Franco Mostert, 20-Teboho Mohoje, 21-Faf de Klerk, 22-Elton Jantjies, 23-Johan Goosen.
(Reporting by Nick Said,; Editing by Ed Osmond)