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De Villiers hails Hougaard

Peter de Villiers has challenged Francois Hougaard to make his mark on the international stage after handing the scrum-half a place in the starting XV for Saturday's Tri Nations encounter against New Zealand in Johannesburg.

The introduction of the 22-year-old in the number nine jersey is one of seven personnel changes made to the team following their last run-out in the competition, which ended in a 30-13 loss to Australia.

Speaking about the selection of Hougaard, a player that has played most of the season on the wing for the Bulls, De Villiers said: "He is a player you can take to war."

He added: "He has a strong head and a good rugby brain and we're looking for someone to bring something extra to the team.

"I'm excited to see him trying to cement his place in the starting team."

It was their third defeat in as many games and only victory will suffice against the All Blacks, who need just a point in the historic clash at the FNB Stadium to clinch the title away from the current holders and world champions.

De Villiers has decided to ring the changes in a bid to turn around the fortunes of the Springboks.

Apart from the twice-capped Hougaard coming in for Ruan Pienaar, there is also a first Test start for lock Flip van der Merwe, who has three previous Test appearances, in place of Danie Rossouw, only fit enough for a place on the bench.

Gio Aplon is a surprise inclusion at full-back, moving from his more customary wing position into the number 15 jersey in place of Zane Kirchner. JP Pietersen instead comes in alongside a new midfield combination of Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh, who replace Wynand Olivier and Jaque Fourie respectively, while front rower BJ Botha and flanker Ryan Kankowski are ousted by Jannie du Plessis and Juan Smith.

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