South Africa v Italy, East London, June 26
Smit back to lead Springboks
June 22, 2010
Springboks captain John Smit rallies his side, New Zealand v South Africa, Tri-Nations, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand, September 12, 2009
John Smit has recovered from a hamstring strain to reclaim his place in the Springboks' starting line-up © Getty Images

Hooker John Smit will lead South Africa against Italy in East London after recovering from a hamstring injury that ruled him out of the Springboks' victory over the Azzurri in Witbank last weekend.

Smit's return to the line-up is one of seven changes to the starting team - five new players and two positional switches - that beat Italy by 29-13 with a further six changes on the bench.

Andries Bekker is handed his first start of the year with Victor Matfield rested while Schalk Burger is also fit again and takes over at flank in the place of Dewald Potgieter. Smit comes in at the expense of Chiliboy Ralepelle who drops to the bench.

Wing Bryan Habana, fly-half Morne Steyn, scrum-half Ricky Januarie, No.8 Pierre Spies, flanker Francois Louw, lock Bakkies Botha and props Jannie du Plessis and Gurthro Steenkamp are the only players to retain their positions. Gio Aplon moves from right wing to fullback and Jean de Villiers from centre to wing.

BJ Botha, Danie Rossouw and Wynand Olivier have been included on the bench after not featuring in Witbank. Matfield, Zane Kirchner, Bandise Maku, CJ van der Linde, Alistair Hargreaves, Ryan Kankowski and Bjorn Basson drop out of the 22.

"It is important for us to re-focus for Saturday's Test," Smit said. "It is quite strange to be watching from afar one week and then be back in the thick of things the next. We have a good team and have to make sure that what we do in training translates on the field on match day. We had a good session on Monday and an even better one today and we have to carry that attitude into the game on Saturday."

Despite the changes South Africa will still be expected to easily beat an Italian side ranked 11th in the world. Smit remains cautious of their threat, however, adding: "It is important that we prepare the same every week regardless of who we play. We concentrate on what we do well and on how we want to play. We have to fix some of the problem areas from last week but generally we want to make sure we are good in all departments."

South Africa: Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Juan de Jongh, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Ricky Januarie, Gurthrö Steenkamp, John Smit (captain), Jannie du Plessis, Bakkies Botha, Andries Bekker, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw, Pierre Spies

Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, BJ Botha, Danie Rossouw, Dewald Potgieter, Ruan Pienaar, Butch James, Wynand Oliver


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