South Africa on Saturday begin a countdown to their Rugby World Cup title defence in France with a team selection that has irritated Rugby Championship first-round rivals Australia.

Australia coach Eddie Jones wanted to start his second spell in charge of the Wallabies by facing a full-strength Springboks side before a 52,000 crowd at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

But the wily 63-year-old must settle for a South African matchday squad containing nine of the 23 players who beat England in Japan to win the 2019 World Cup.

While the Springboks trained in the mid-winter Pretoria sun, eight other survivors of the 2019 final squad crossed 10 time zones to New Zealand, where they will acclimatise for a July 15 Test.

Injuries, loss of form and retirements ruled out the other six stars involved in the Yokohama final.

"What I am hoping for is their best team. I do not want to take down a half-baked Springboks side," Jones told reporters in Sydney.

Before Jones expressed his views, however, opposite number Jacques Nienaber and South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus had chosen a different course.

"From the outset our plan was to select a squad we believe can beat Australia," said Nienaber, who hopes South Africa can maintain a perfect record against Australia in Pretoria.

"We chose to select a group of players at the same time that could travel to New Zealand and give us the best chance to do well in both games."

Veteran No. 8 Duane Vermeulen skippers a team that contains one new cap, former Ireland lock Jean Kleyn.

Johannesburg-born Kleyn qualified for Ireland through residency and, having not played Test rugby for more than three years, was eligible to switch allegiance.

- 'Overwhelmed by opportunity' -


"When approached I was overwhelmed by the opportunity to be part of the Springbok squad. I could not let the chance pass," he told the weekly Rapport.

Media reports that the Springboks will field a team of "second stringers" or "spare parts" can only add fuel to the fire in a key match for both teams.

South Africa want a win to set a positive tone for a season they hope will culminate with Siya Kolisi lifting the Webb Ellis Cup again, in Paris on October 28.

After Australia, and New Zealand in Auckland, they complete a Rugby Championship schedule trimmed to three matches due to the World Cup by playing Argentina in Johannesburg on July 29.

South Africa will play three warm-up matches in August, tackling Argentina in Buenos Aires, Wales in Cardiff and New Zealand in London.

The three-time world champions then face Scotland on September 10 in their opening World Cup Pool B match, followed by Romania, Ireland, currently the No. 1 ranked Test team, and Tonga.

While South Africa, Ireland, New Zealand and France are considered the nations likeliest to win the World Cup, Australia cannot be written off under the shrewd Jones, twice a World Cup runner-up as a coach.

Ranked seventh, two-time world champions Australia are in Pool C with Wales, Fiji, Georgia and Portugal.

Jones inherited in January from sacked New Zealander Dave Rennie a team that lost nine of 13 internationals last season.

He believes one of the problems afflicting the Wallabies was they had abandoned the Australian way of playing.

"We had probably become a copycat of New Zealand for a while -- we need to get back to playing our way.

"I believe the Australian way is being a bit more innovative and off-the-cuff. While structure is necessary, we must allow players to perform instinctively."

Forwards Michael Hooper and James Slipper are the co-captains against the Springboks of a team showing nine changes from that which edged Wales in their last match eight months ago.