South Africa wing Makazole Mapimpi (C) returns for the Springboks' concluding Autumn Nations Series international against England

London (AFP) - South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber has made a raft of changes for the Springboks’ concluding Autumn Nations Series international against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

With the game taking place outside World Rugby’s official window for Test matches, the world champions will be without Cheslin Kolbe (wing), Andre Esterhuizen (centre), Cobus Reinach (scrum-half), Jasper Wiese (No 8) and Vincent Koch (prop), who have all returned to their respective English and French clubs.

Nienaber has made four changes and two positional switches to the starting XV that thrashed Italy 63-21 in Genoa last weekend, with Makazole Mapimpi (wing), one of the try-scoring heroes of their 2019 World Cup final win over England in Japan, recalled.

Jesse Kriel is in at centre, while Evan Roos (No 8) and Eben Etzebeth (lock) are back in the pack, while Kurt-Lee Arendse has switched from left wing to right wing, with Damian de Allende moving from outside centre to inside centre.

There were also four changes on the replacements bench, with SA ‘A’ captain Thomas du Toit (prop), Marco van Staden (flanker), Jaden Hendrikse (scrum-half) and Canan Moodie (wing) being drafted in.

“With this Test falling outside the international Test window, we knew we would have to make changes to the team, but we are pleased with the depth we have built in the wider squad in the last few months, and it is paying off for us this week,” said Nienaber.

“It doesn’t get bigger than playing against England at a packed Twickenham in the last Test of the season for a player, and one can sense the excitement among the players about this occasion.”

Before the Italy match, South Africa had suffered narrow Autumn defeats by both Ireland (19-16) and 2023 World Cup hosts France (30-26).

- ‘Epic encounter’ -

England, who came from 19 points down to snatch a dramatic 25-25 draw with New Zealand at Twickenham last weekend, are due to name their team on Thursday.

The astonishing fightback against the All Blacks came after England launched their November campaign with a narrow 30-29 loss at home to Argentina before they overwhelmed Japan 52-13.

“England will enter this match with the same mindset as us –- to finish the season on a high note after a tough November campaign, and to build momentum with an eye on the World Cup,” said Nienaber.

“So, we are expecting them to throw everything they have at us. They are a well-balanced team with a strong pack of forwards and exciting backs, and they are well coached, so we know it is going to be an epic encounter.

“We had two narrow defeats against the top two teams in the world in Ireland and France and we defeated Italy, and it would be fantastic if we could finish the tour on a high note.”

This match will also see Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus complete a two-game matchday ban imposed by World Rugby for his criticism of referees following the Ireland and France matches.

Team (15-1)

Willie le Roux; Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi; Damian Willemse, Faf de Klerk; Evan Roos, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (capt); Marvin Orie, Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Thomas du Toit, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Jaden Hendrikse, Manie Libbok, Canan Moodie

Coach: Jacques Nienaber (RSA)