The British Isles flanker's inspirational presence is a major boost to a side still reeling from the demoralising defeat by Australia. His restoration to the captaincy in place of the Bath scrum-half Andy Nicol was perhaps the most significant change to emerge when Scotland's coach, Richie Dixon, announced the 15 players charged with reclaiming battered pride against the Springboks.
"We are concentrating on putting the heart back into the performance," Wainwright, who replaces Adam Roxburgh, said. "We know that South Africa are a very strong side - but anybody who isn't excited about playing against them shouldn't be out there."
Also back in the side are the wing pairing of Craig Joiner and Derek Stark, the full-back Rowen Shepherd, and Craig Chalmers - the latter attempting to fill the boots of the injured Alan Tait in the centre.
SCOTLAND (v South Africa, Murrayfield, Saturday): R Shepherd (Melrose and Caledonia); C Joiner (Leicester), A Stanger (Hawick and Scottish Borders), C Chalmers (Melrose and Scottish Borders), D Stark (Glasgow Hawks and Glasgow); G Townsend (Northampton), A Nicol (Bath); D Hilton (Bath), G McKelvey (Watsonians and Edinburgh), M Stewart (Northampton), S Campbell (Dundee HSFP and Caledonia), S Murray (Bedford), R Wainwright (Dundee HSFP and Caledonia, capt), E Peters (Bath), I Smith (Moseley). Replacements: K Logan (Wasps), D Hodge (Watsonians and Edinburgh), G Armstrong, P Walton, G Graham (all Newcastle Falcons), G Bulloch (West of Scotland and Glasgow).