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Steven Kitshoff replaces Ox Nché for champs opener against Wallabies

Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff during a training session at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on June 20 2023.
Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff during a training session at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on June 20 2023.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Steven Kitshoff has replaced injured prop Ox Nché for the Springboks' opening Rugby Championship clash against Australia.

South Africa kick off the tournament against Eddie Jones’ Wallabies at Loftus Stadium in Pretoria on Saturday (5.05pm).

Nché, who was named in the starting line-up, suffered an injury to his pectoral muscle on Tuesday and had to undergo medical tests. He is expected to be out of action for several weeks, ruling the prop out of the championship, SA Rugby said.

Bok coach Jacques Nienaber bemoaned the loss of Nché a few days before the game as it derailed their initial plans, but said he has confidence in Kitshoff as a replacement.

“It’s never ideal to lose a player to injury days before an important Test match, but unfortunately it’s part of the game,” Nienaber said.

“We are particularly sad for Ox because he’s been working very hard in the past few months and making a great contribution on and off the field. We wish him a speedy recovery.

“On the upside, we have players like Steven and Trevor [Nyakane] to fall back on, and with both players having been with us in Pretoria for the past three-and-a-half weeks, it’s an easy switch for this match.

“We’ve always emphasised the importance of being adaptable as a team and that will be particularly important this season with the Rugby Championship, World Cup warm-up games and the global showpiece itself coming up.”

Nché’s injury resulted in Kitshoff being withdrawn at the last minute on Tuesday from the early travelling squad to Auckland, New Zealand, for next week’s clash against the All Blacks.

Bulls and former Junior Springbok prop Gerhard Steenekamp has been drafted into the national squad and will travel to New Zealand on Wednesday night to train with the players who departed on Tuesday.

“We are fortunate to have such depth at our disposal,” Nienaber said.

“We’ve been tracking between 50 and 60 players in the past few seasons, with an eye on the World Cup, so we know what talent we have at our disposal.

“This will also be a fantastic opportunity for Gerhard to experience our systems and to be in the national set-up. He’s been impressive for the Bulls this season and he’s a former Junior Springbok, so we are excited to see what he has to offer at training.”

Revised Springbok team to play the Wallabies — Willie le Roux; Canan Moodie, Lukhanyo Am, André Esterhuizen, Kurt-Lee Arendse; Manie Libbok, Cobus Reinach; Duane Vermeulen (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Marco van Staden; Marvin Orie, Jean Kleyn, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff.

Substitutes: Joseph Dweba, Thomas du Toit, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Evan Roos, Deon Fourie; Grant Williams, Damian Willemse.

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