Springboks recall Smith after long absence

South Africa's Juan Smith (L) during an international rugby union match at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh on November 20, 2010
South Africa's Juan Smith (L) during an international rugby union match at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh on November 20, 2010 (AFP Photo/Graham Stuart)

Johannesburg (AFP) - Juan Smith has been recalled by South Africa after a three-year absence for a Rugby Championship Test in Argentina Saturday.

The flanker replaces Marcell Coetzee in one of the three changes to the Springboks starting line-up that laboured to a 13-6 victory over the Pumas in Pretoria last weekend.

Eben Etzebeth comes in for Bakkies Botha at lock and loose-head prop Gurthro Steenkamp replaces Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira.

Coetzee, Botha and Mtawarira have been named among eight replacements for the second-round southern hemisphere match in north-western city Salta.

In a change to the backline replacements, wing-cum-full-back Lwazi Mvovo gets the nod ahead of centre Jan Serfontein.

The inclusion of Smith, 33, who last wore the green and gold against England in 2010 at Twickenham, is the latest chapter in a fairy-tale comeback.

An achilles tendon injury early in 2011 sidelined Smith for two years and after five unsuccessful operations, his rugby career appeared over.

But French giants Toulon thought otherwise, offered him a contract, and he helped them become 2014 European champions by scoring a try in the final triumph over English opponents Saracens.

Smith, who can operate as a flanker, No. 8 or lock, also collected a French Top 14 winners' medal with Toulon.

"We had a couple of options at blind-side flanker, but decided that this was a great opportunity to give Juan a chance," coach Heyneke Meyer said in a statement.

"He was one of the best players for Toulon last season after more than two years out of the game and helped them win two major competitions.

"Apart from his experience and leadership, Juan is also a superb ball-carrier and brilliant at the back of the line-outs," said Meyer.

The demotions of Mtawarira, Botha and Coetzee were expected as the Springboks battled to contain the Pumas pack in monsoon-like conditions.

Expected to win comfortably and claim a four-try bonus point, South Africa had to survive a late onslaught to start the Championship with a victory.

Team (15-1)

Willie le Roux; Cornal Hendricks, Damian de Allende, Jean de Villiers (capt), Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Ruan Pienaar; Duane Vermeulen, Juan Smith, Francois Louw; Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth; Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp

Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Frans Malherbe, Bakkies Botha, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Hougaard, Morne Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo

Coach: Heyneke Meyer