South Africa Coach Jacques Nienaber said that while the Springboks-Ireland game has been talked up as the clash of the pool, Scotland has been good enough recently to beat highly-rated France, which means SA’s focus is solely on Sunday’s game.
Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse are on the South Africa wings for the opening game of its Rugby World Cup title defence against Scotland this weekend, and Damian Willemse is at fullback ahead of Willie le Roux.
Kolbe’s recall to the left wing for Sunday’s Pool B game in Marseille was one of four changes on Wednesday to the starting team that dismantled New Zealand by a record 35-7 at Twickenham two weeks ago.
The other switches saw Jasper Wiese start at No. 8 ahead of veteran Duane Vermeulen, who’s on the bench along with Le Roux. Centres Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel come into the starting 15 to replace Andre Esterhuizen and Canan Moodie.
Moodie, the 20-year-old youngster who was tipped to continue at outside centre, was ruled out by a hamstring twinge, the Springboks said.
Nienaber named his team two days ahead of schedule and said, “By getting it out of the way we can just focus on preparing for Scotland.”
Wiese is the only change in the forward pack, where the other seven starters played some part in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final. Franco Mostert is in the second row again alongside Eben Etzebeth.
Captain Siya Kolisi starts his third game in a row after a comeback from knee surgery for South Africa’s warmup wins over Wales and the All Blacks.
The Boks went for a six-forwards and two-backs bench split and not the unprecedented 7-1 that raised eyebrows against New Zealand at Twickenham.
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk will make his 50th test appearance against the Scots in Marseille. He partners Manie Libbok, who continues to be South Africa’s first-choice No. 10 after Handre Pollard didn’t make the squad because of injury.
“Scotland are a quality team with a strong pack and skilful backs, and they play with a lot of intensity, so we need to be sharp on attack and defence on Sunday,” Nienaber said.
Wing Makazole Mapimpi, a try-scorer in the win over England in the World Cup final four years ago, appeared to be the biggest loser and didn’t make the 23-man squad.
But Nienaber and South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus have changed their lineup regularly in the buildup and are expected to use all of their squad depth in a tough pool, where the Boks will also face Romania, top-ranked Ireland and Tonga.
Erasmus was coach for the Springboks’ World Cup win in 2019 and Nienaber was his assistant coach.
“All the teams have improved since 2019 but World Cups are a bit different,” Nienaber said. “You must have the ability to score points whereas in 2019 you could grind it out with a good defence, a good kicking game, a solid set-piece. We had to adapt. I don’t think we’re the finished product yet, but we are working towards that.”
Source: Euro News