There are four personnel changes from the starting XV which defeated Australia last Sunday, with two each in the forwards and backs, and two on the replacements bench from the Wallabies fixture, along with a positional change in the pack.
Stuart Hogg leads the team from fullback, winning his 87th cap, while centre Matt Scott earns his first Scotland start since June 2017, when he played against Italy in Singapore in Townsend’s first match as head coach.
Scott comes in for his 40th Scotland cap and partners Chris Harris, who played South Africa for the British & Irish Lions this summer.
Rufus McLean starts on the wing after his double try-scoring debut against Tonga earlier in the 2021 Autumn Nations Series, with Van der Merwe completing the back three.
Lions half-back pairing Finn Russell, also named as vice-captain, and Ali Price both start following their strong showing against Australia.
In the pack, Nick Haining comes into the starting back-row on the blindside flank as Jamie Ritchie moves to the openside, with Matt Fagerson at No 8. Hamish Watson, himself a Lions tourist this summer, is named in the replacements.
There is a return to the front-row for Stuart McInally at hooker and he packs down with Lion Zander Fagerson and former Vodacom Bulls prop Pierre Schoeman, who earns his third start at loosehead prop.
Grant Gilchrist and Sam Skinner continue their second-row partnership following their role in the win over the Wallabies on Sunday.
Townsend said: “Sunday’s result against Australia was another positive step in the evolution of this team, but there is more to come from this group. And we’ll have to raise our level of performance on Saturday against the world champions.
“We know what to expect from the Springboks in how they play and the physicality they will bring across the team. We have therefore selected a side that we believe can both meet that challenge and give us the platform to impose our game on the opposition. It should be a full-blooded contest and will require an intensity and focus across our 23-man squad for the full 80 minutes.
“As a playing and coaching group we took a huge amount of energy from the crowd at BT Murrayfield through their outstanding support against Australia. We can’t wait to get back out in front of our people again this weekend.”
Kick-off in Edinburgh is at 15h00 (SA time) and the Test will be broadcast live on SuperSport.
15. Stuart Hogg – Exeter Chiefs - (captain) – 86 caps
14. Rufus McLean – Glasgow Warriors - 1 cap
13. Chris Harris – Gloucester Rugby – 29 caps
12. Matt Scott – Leicester Tigers – 39 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe – Worcester Warriors – 11 caps
10. Finn Russell – Racing 92 - (vice-captain) – 56 caps
9. Ali Price – Glasgow Warriors – 44 caps
8. Matt Fagerson – Glasgow Warriors – 15 caps
7. Jamie Ritchie – Edinburgh Rugby - (vice-captain) – 29 caps
6. Nick Haining – Edinburgh Rugby – 9 caps
5. Grant Gilchrist – Edinburgh Rugby – 46 caps
4. Sam Skinner – Exeter Chiefs – 13 caps
3. Zander Fagerson – Glasgow Warriors – 40 caps
2. Stuart McInally – Edinburgh Rugby - 41 caps
1. Pierre Schoeman – Edinburgh Rugby – 2 caps
16. Ewan Ashman – Sale Sharks – 1 cap
17. Jamie Bhatti – Glasgow Warriors – 20 caps
18. Oli Kebble – Glasgow Warriors – 10 caps
19. Jamie Hodgson – Edinburgh Rugby – 2 caps
20. Hamish Watson – Edinburgh Rugby – 43 caps
21. George Horne – Glasgow Warriors – 15 caps
22. Adam Hastings – Gloucester Rugby – 24 caps
23. Blair Kinghorn – Edinburgh Rugby – 26 caps