CJ Stander returns as Ireland aim for historic series win in South Africa

CJ Stander returns as Ireland aim for historic series win in South Africa
CJ Stander returns to the back row.

By Simon Lewis in Port Elizabeth.

Joe Schmidt has reverted to his first Test-winning formula as Ireland seek to clinch an historic series win over South Africa this Saturday.

The Ireland head coach had made five changes to his starting XV following the first Test victory in Cape Town, only for the chance of a first series win in South Africa to be denied them last Saturday in a 32-26 defeat at Ellis Park. On Thursday he restored the pack which laid the foundation for the win at Newlands two weeks ago.

CJ Stander, suspended for the second Test defeat in Johannesburg last Saturday, returns to the back row following his opening-game red card, while tighthead Mike Ross is restored to the front row, despite a strong first Test start for Tadhg Furlong at Ellis Park.

Iain Henderson reverts to second row having started last weekend at blindside flanker in Stander's absence while Jordi Murphy returns at openside as Rhys Ruddock moves back onto the bench.

In the backline, the absence of injured Robbie Henshaw means there is an all-Ulster pairing in midfield with Stuart Olding retaining his place at inside centre for the second Test and Luke Marshall in at 13 having played the first Test at 12.

There are changes too in the back three with Keith Earls in once more on the left wing, replacing Craig Gilroy, while Jared Payne is another injury casualty from the Johannesburg defeat, replaced at full-back by Connacht's Tiernan O'Halloran.

The Ireland bench sees Connacht wing Matt Healy given the chance of a Test debut while Eoin Reddan, the onnly other player in the squad not feature so far on tour, comes in as scrum-half cover for Conor Murray. Reddan replaces Kieran Marmion for his 71st and final cap having, at the age of 35, announced his retirement from rugby prio to the team announcement.

Should he come off the bench, the Limerick-born former Munster, Connacht, Wasps and Leinster number nine will bring down the curtain on a stellar career that saw him win three Heineken Cups, an English Premiership title and two Pro12 winners' medals in addition to two Six Nations-winning campaigns and appearances at three World Cups in 2007, 2011 and 2015.

“I have been privileged to be part of so many successful teams over the course of my career,” Reddan said. “To win European and domestic honours with both Wasps and Leinster has been fantastic and to taste Six Nations success with Ireland over the past three seasons has been incredible.

“I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences that professional rugby has provided over the course of my career but feel that now is the right time to commit to the next chapter of my life and take on a new challenge.”

An hour earlier, Springboks head coach Allister Coetzee announced two changes to the starting line up from Ellis Park, Ruan Combrinck replacing Lwazi Mvovo on the wing following his second Test man of the match performance off the bench, with his fellow second-half try scorer Warren Whiteley in for injured No.8 Duane Vermeulen.

“It will be another huge battle between the sides on Saturday,” Coetzee said.

“Both sides have suffered injuries before and during the series, but that it is part of the game and it again provides opportunities for others to come in and stake their claim.

“We know what is at stake on Saturday – it’s a matter of winner takes all. This group of players will continue to grow together as a team and Saturday they have the opportunity to gain more experience by playing together.”

South Africa: W le Roux (Sharks); R Combrinck (Lions), L Mapoe (Lions), D de Allende (Stormers), JP Pietersen (Sharks); E Jantjies (Lions), F de Klerk (Lions); T Mtawarira (Sharks), A Strauss – captain (Bulls), F Malherbe (Stormers); E Etzebeth (Stormers), P-S du Toit (Stormers); F Louw (Bath), S Kolisi (Stormers), W Whiteley (Lions).

Replacements: B Mbonambi (Stormers), S Kitshoff (Bordeaux), J Redelinghuys (Lions), F Mostert (Lions), J Kriel (Lions), R Paige (Bulls), M Steyn (Stade Francais), L Mvovo (Sharks).

Ireland: T O'Halloran (Connacht); A Trimble (Ulster), L Marshall (Ulster), S Olding (Ulster), K Earls (Munster); P Jackson (Ulster), C Murray (Munster); J McGrath (Leinster), R Best (Ulster) - captain, M Ross (Leinster); I Henderson (Ulster), D Toner (Leinster); CJ Stander (Munster), J Murphy (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), F Bealham (Connacht), T Furlong (Leinster), U Dillane (Connacht), R Ruddock (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster), I Madigan (Leinster), M Healy (Connacht).

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