Bok coach Allister Coetzee announced a new-look side on Thursday for the big London showdown, with a revamped loose trio and backline from the last Test against the All Blacks in Durban.
The 33-year-old Habana, who has scored a record 66 tries in 123 Tests, was initially cleared to play following practice on Tuesday, where he took a full part in the training session.
But in a statement on Thursday, SA Rugby said that the Toulon star “showed significant improvement this week. However, he is not yet 100% ready and it was decided not to risk him with two more Tests to come on the tour”.
That sees Ruan Combrinck make his comeback to the side at right wing after breaking his lower leg against Argentina in late August, while JP Pietersen also returns at left wing after sitting out the Rugby Championship due to club commitments with Leicester in England.
Japan-based Willie le Roux has been recalled at fullback, with the experiment with Johan Goosen seemingly on the back burner for the moment, as Goosen is on the bench and will ostensibly cover flyhalf, as Elton Jantjies has surprisingly missed out altogether on the match-23.
Venter has been rewarded for his impressive Currie Cup campaign, where he led the Cheetahs to the title, while Damian de Allende has held off the strong challenge of Rohan Janse van Rensburg for the No 12 jersey.
But it is in the loose trio where Coetzee has shown his hand with the type of rugby he wants the Boks to play. He has gone for the highly physical pair of Willem Alberts at openside flank and regular No 5 lock Pieter-Steph du Toit at blindside, with Oupa Mohoje left out of the match-23 entirely after starting in most of the Rugby Championship games at No 7.
That indicates a total direct approach from the Boks, with Alberts and Du Toit expected to bash it up the middle and impose themselves physically on the powerful England pack.
Du Toit’s redeployment sees Lood de Jager start at lock alongside Eben Etzebeth, with Coetzee clearly intent on targeting England’s lineout as Eddie Jones is missing his two first-choice jumpers in Maro Itoje and George Kruis.
“I believe we have selected the best available team for this Saturday. We have a long list of injured loose forwards, with all of Roelof Smit, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Louw, Jaco Kriel, Siya Kolisi and Sikumbuzo Notshe injured, while a couple are also unavailable for selection,” Coetzee said.
Saturday’s game will kick off at 4.30pm SA time.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Willem Alberts, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Lionel Mapoe.
Original source: Habana out as Venter starts for Boks