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Springboks Change Two to Face All Blacks, Genia Has Knee Surgery

South Africa made two changes to its starting lineup for this weekend’s Rugby Championship game against tournament leader New Zealand in Dunedin.

Flip van der Merwe replaces lock Eben Etzebeth, who is suspended after being found guilty of headbutting an opponent during the Springboks’ 26-19 loss to Australia four days ago. Francois Louw takes over at openside flanker from Marcell Coetzee, who drops to the replacements’ bench, where Andries Bekker provides second-row cover.

“The New Zealanders are good on the ground, which is why we decided to go for a specialist openside flank in Francois,” Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer said in a team statement.

Prop Jannie du Plessis was named to start in the Sept. 15 match after injuring his hamstring against the Wallabies. Meyer said today that du Plessis will be given until the eve of the match to fully shake off the injury, with Pat Cilliers on standby if he fails to recover in time.

Australia captain Will Genia today underwent a full reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, which the scrum-half ruptured during the match against the Springboks in Perth.

“Genia will now been sidelined for an estimated six months of rehabilitation before he can return to the field of play,” the team said in an e-mailed statement.

Second-rower Nathan Sharpe was named as Australia’s third on-field captain of 2012 yesterday after Genia joined David Pocock on the sidelines. Regular skipper James Horwill is also unavailable after rupturing his hamstring in May.

World champion New Zealand tops the southern hemisphere championship standings with 12 points after three of six rounds, a lead of five over South Africa, with Australia on four points and Argentina on two.

SOUTH AFRICA: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers (captain), Frans Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Juandre Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira.

Reserves: Tiaan Liebenberg, Dean Greyling, Andries Bekker, Marcell Coetzee, Johan Goosen, Juan de Jongh, Pat Lambie.

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