Springboks load bench with 7 forwards to take on top-ranked Ireland at Rugby World Cup – Sports

PARIS (AP) — South Africa unsurprisingly reverted to its strongest starting lineup to face top-ranked Ireland in a crunch pool game at the Rugby World Cup while also naming seven forwards and just one back on the bench on Tuesday in a clear indication of how the Springboks aim to play.

The defending champion Springboks have gone with a 7-1 bench split just once before, against New Zealand last month in a Rugby World Cup warmup game.

The move was criticized then by some in the game as taking rugby down a dark road of just brute force forward play.

It effectively gives South Africa a new forward pack to bring on in the second half against Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday. The winner of the game will likely finish top in Pool B and likely avoid a meeting with host France in the quarterfinals, although that will probably only mean a quarter against three-time champion New Zealand.

Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber reverted to the starting 15 that beat Scotland in their opening game, only without hooker Malcolm Marx, who was ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury. Bongi Mbonambi comes into the starting team for Marx.

Lock Eben Etzebeth was selected to start after sustaining a shoulder injury and going off in the first half against Scotland. Captain Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Jasper Wiese are the loose forward combination.

Faf de Klerk is back at scrumhalf to link up with flyhalf Manie Libbok, and wings Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse are recalled.

On the bench, scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, who can also play wing, is the only backline player among the reserves, with the Springboks naming three reserve front-row forwards, two reserve locks and two reserve loose forwards. Among them is Deon Fourie, the 36-year-old flanker who has been switched to reserve hooker after Marx’s tournament-ending injury.

While the 7-1 split worked against New Zealand, setting the Boks up for a record 35-7 win over their archrival, it also poses a major risk if one or more backline players get injured.

Ireland is rugby’s form team and on a run of 15 straight wins since July last year.

“We know it’s going to be a grind of a match and we know we need to pitch up physically and mentally. We also need to start with intensity and stay focused until the final whistle,” Nienaber said. “This is a massive game for both sides with an eye to progressing out of our pool, so we need to be extremely accurate in all areas of our game.”


South Africa: Damian Willemse, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe, Manie Libbok, Faf de Klerk; Jasper Wiese, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff. Reserves: Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Jean Kleyn, RG Snyman, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Cobus Reinach.


AP Rugby World Cup: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby

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