Former SA Under-20 flyhalf Manie Libbok has been included on the Springbok bench for Saturday’s Test against France in Marseille as head coach Jacques Nienaber named a team showing five changes and two positional switches from the side that ran out against Ireland last weekend.
The second Test on the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour kicks off at 22h00 (SA time) at the Stade Vélodrome, where Willie le Roux will slot back into the starting team at fullback, which sees Cheslin Kolbe move to the right wing and Kurt-Lee Arendse to the left wing, while Makazole Mapimpi has been named among the replacements. The other change in the backline sees Faf de Klerk start at scrumhalf in place of Jaden Hendrikse.
Nienaber also made changes to his forward pack, with tighthead prop Frans Malherbe packing down in a new-look front row next to Ox Nche (prop) and Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), while Franco Mostert makes the jump from the bench to the starting lineup to fill the void left by injured lock Lood de Jager.
Other changes amongst the replacements – where the uncapped Libbok has been named in the matchday squad in a Test for the first time – include Cobus Reinach, who will provide cover at scrumhalf, as well as Steven Kitshoff (prop), Malcolm Marx (hooker) and Marvin Orie (lock). Nienaber opted for a split of five forwards and three backs on the bench for this Test.
“One of the changes was injury enforced as Lood suffered a shoulder injury against Ireland, while we opted to make a few tactical personnel changes for the challenge that we expect France to pose,” said Nienaber.
“We know what each of the players in this squad can do, and we thought these combinations fit this specific game.
“A guy like Cobus will also bring a different dimension to our attack, and it a bonus that he knows the conditions in France and has also played with some of their players.
“Manie, meanwhile, has showed his big match temperament in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship and he has been training well since joining the team, so if he gets a run, it will be a great occasion to make his Test debut. It is going to be a challenging game, but it doesn’t get better than playing against the second ranked team in the world on your debut.”
Nienaber expected a big onslaught from the French and said this would be a good test for the team with an eye on next year’s Rugby World Cup, which will be hosted in France.
“France have showed in the last year what a force they can be, and they come off a morale-boosting victory against Australia, so we know we are in for,” said Nienaber.
“Facing France, who are ranked second in the world, on their home patch at what we expect will be a full stadium is great preparation for next year, as the players will experience first-hand what they are in for.
“We will also be playing at this stadium during the World Cup, so this match will be good for us in many ways.”
Looking at the threat France could pose, Nienaber said: “They have a good pack of forwards who pride themselves on their set pieces and talented backs who can spark something from nothing, so they will test us all around.
“That said, we know what our players are capable of, and if we had capitalised on more of our opportunities against Ireland we could have been on the right end of the scoreboard. The reality is that we lost against the best team in the world at home in front of a capacity crowd by three points.
“We’ve spoken about what went wrong last week and we are working hard on rectifying those areas so that we can we play our potential and make the nation proud this weekend.”
Springbok team to face France in Marseille:
15 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 80 caps, 65 pts (13t)
14 – Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon) – 21 caps, 53 pts (10t, 1p)
13 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) – 57 caps, 60 pts (12t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 67 caps, 45 pts (9t)
11 – Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls) – 4 caps, 15 pts (3t)
10 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 24 caps, 22 pts (1t, 4c, 3p)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles) – 43 caps, 25 pts (5t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 19 caps, 5 pts (1t)
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 65 caps, 15 pts (3t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 72 caps, 40 pts (8t)
5 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 60 caps, 15 pts (3t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 107 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 55 caps, 5 pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 53 caps, 55 pts (11t)
1 – Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks) – 16 caps, 0 pts
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 56 caps, 65 pts (13t)
17 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 68 caps, 5 pts (1t)
18 – Vincent Koch (unattached) – 39 caps, 0 pts
19 – Marvin Orie (DHL Stormers) – 8 caps, 0 pts
20 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 28 caps, 15 pts (3t)
21 – Cobus Reinach (Montpellier) – 22 caps, 40 pts (8t)
22 – Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers) – uncapped
23 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 34 caps, 110 pts (22t)
Springbok record against France:
Played 44; Won 27; Lost 11; Drawn 6; Points for: 939, Points against: 662; Tries scored 105, Tries conceded 59; Highest score 52-10; Biggest win 42 points. Win % 61%.
- Jesse Kriel is the only player in the squad who has scored more than one try against France. He is currently on three tries.
- Siya Kolisi holds the most Test caps against France in the Springbok squad, with six Tests played.
- Eben Etzebeth is the second most capped Springbok lock with 107 Tests.
- The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 725.
- There are 278 caps in the backline, with 447 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 255
- The average caps per player in the backline are 39, the forwards 55, while the players on the bench average 31.
Kolisi honoured to lead the Boks for the 50th time
Siya Kolisi was honoured to be selected to lead the Springboks for the 50th time in Sunday’s final Rugby World Cup pool match against Tonga and said it was a milestone he never thought he would achieve.
Kolisi explained his rugby journey and gave credit to those who made this achievement possible at a media conference at the team hotel outside Toulon and Friday.
“I never dreamed of this,” he said. “I started playing rugby because I enjoyed it, it kept me out of trouble and my friends played the sport. But I certainly didn’t think I’d be sitting here now.”
“It was not an easy road because I was always the joker and the naughty guy in a team. At the Boks it was difficult at first, but there is no greater honour (than being the Bok captain).
“Being the first black captain made it tough too, but I would never have made it to this point if it was not for my team-mates, as well as coach Rassie (Erasmus, Director of Rugby) and coach Jacques (Nienaber). They put structures in place around me to assist me, and thanks to them it made my job easier.”
Sunday’s match will not only be a big one for Kolisi and the team, it will also be an important match for flyhalf Handre Pollard, who makes his return to the side for the first time since August last year following calf and knee injuries – a challenge the player adopted with a realistic mindset.
“It’s unbelievable to be back in the team and in this environment, and I’m trying to enjoy every day,” said Pollard.
“The calf injury I suffered was supposed to keep me out for four weeks and it ended up being three months.
“Not being selected for the World Cup squad was tough, but such is life. The coaches told us to remain positive and I was lucky to get the call.”
Commenting about his expectations in his first game back, Pollard said: “I’m realistic about this weekend. Playing 30 minutes of club rugby is very different to playing in a World Cup. I just want to express myself, although I know it won’t be perfect.”
Kolisi also welcomed his team-mate back with open arms and said they would try to make his job as easy as possible on Sunday: “I’m looking forward to working with Handre again. He’s experienced, he has a strong personality and he’s a general at No 10. We all want him to enjoy himself and not have to play under too much pressure, and we’ll try to put him in a position to do so.”
Looking forward to the match against Tonga, Nienaber said it was vital to improve a few areas of their game to book a quarter-final spot and attempt to defend their title.
“We obviously have goals if you take the results out of the way,” said Nienaber.
“Firstly, we need a win, then a bonus point and a good points difference, and then there are things that we need to rectify which we didn’t get right against Ireland. We need to get our foundations right to get to the quarter-final and onward otherwise we won’t make it through.”
Sunday’s match at Stade de Marseille kicks off at 21h00 and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.
Boks expecting “brutal” battle against Tonga
The Springboks are expecting a “brutal” battle against Tonga in their final Rugby World Cup pool match in Marseille on Sunday, and have emphasised the importance of being accurate on attack and defence to book a place in the quarter-finals.
The Boks are second on the log in Pool B on 10 points, four behind Ireland who lead the group on 14 points.
Tonga are in fourth place without any points after suffering defeats against Ireland and Scotland – two of the strongest teams in the pool on the world rankings – but the Boks are not leaving anything to chance to book their place in the top eight and they are determined to get their campaign back on track and to build momentum after going down 13-8 against Ireland last weekend.
“It’s a big week for us against Tonga,” said Springbok fullback Willie le Roux.
“This is knockout rugby for us and it’s going to be brutal because they have some big guys playing for them.
“It’s going to be a physical match and I think there’ll be some sore bodies after the game. Our defence will have to be up for it because they have players that can spark anything from anywhere.”
Springbok lock Marvin Orie also expected a massive onslaught from the Pacific Islanders in the set pieces: “They have a lot of big and athletic players. They are hard hitters as one can see, so we are expecting challenging scrums and lineouts. Many of their players have also played at a high level, so it will be a tough match.”
Le Roux was realistic about the role he played in the Rugby World Cup squad despite being one of the most experienced players in the squad with 89 Test caps, saying with such good depth in the group, no one could take their place in the team for granted.
“On a personal note, I just want to do my best, enjoy myself and to try to make the team win,” said Le Roux. “We have such great depth in the team, one cannot get comfortable in a jersey. We keep pushing one another to get better.”
Orie, meanwhile, was excited about joining forces with his former Tygerberg High School team-mate, Bok centurion Eben Etzebeth, in the second row this weekend: “Eben is a world class player, he’s played over 100 Tests for South Africa. His game is also at a high level, and he inspires us all to reach our best through the standards he sets.”
The match at Stade de Marseille kicks off at 21h00 on Sunday and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.
Nienaber makes wholesale changes for Ireland clash
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber made 13 personnel changes and a positional switch as well naming a seven-one split in favour of the forwards on the replacements’ bench for Saturday’s third Rugby World Cup pool encounter against Ireland.
Nine players who sat out Sunday’s 76-0 win over Romania return to the starting line-up while four others move from the bench to the starting XV for another pivotal encounter in the Pool B ‘Group of Death’.
The two players to retain their places in the run-on team are Bongi Mbonambi (hooker) and Damian Willemse (utility back) – who moves from flyhalf to fullback – while Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe (props), Jasper Wiese (No 8) and Jesse Kriel (centre) move from the replacements’ bench.
Overall, the team reunites the starting combination that defeated Scotland 18-3 in the opening pool match except for hooker, where Mbonambi starts in place of the injured Malcolm Marx.
In the pack, it means the restoration of the locking combination of Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert, and the loose trio of captain Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit (both flankers) and Wiese.
Outside them, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and flyhalf Manie Libbok unite at halfback, while Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe will patrol the wings outside of the centre pairing of Damian de Allende and Kriel.
Nienaber’s seven-one bench will see Deon Fourie continue as hooker, while Ox Nche and Trevor Nyakane will provide prop reinforcements with the Munster lock duo of Jean Kleyn – who played five Tests for Ireland which included wearing the light green jumper in the 2019 Rugby World Cup – and RG Snyman are paired on the bench with loose forwards Marco van Staden and the versatile Kwagga Smith, who can cover wing as well thanks to his Springboks Sevens’ experience.
The single back on Nienaber’s bench is scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, who also provides cover at wing.
“Ireland are a quality team with a strong pack of forwards and talented backs, and they play with a lot of speed, so we know what we have to do to deliver a top-drawer performance for things to go our way,” said Nienaber.
“We faced them late last year and we’ve been keeping an eye on their performances this year, so everyone knows what we have to do this weekend.
“We’re fortunate to have a match-fit squad and have been building depth and versatility for a while and believe this is the best combination for this match. For many of these players this is their second or third World Cup, so they know what it takes to perform at this level, and we believe this team has the right balance of players to achieve what we would like to achieve in this match.
“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.
“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.”
Nienaber brushed off suggestions that the links between some of the Springbok coaches with Nienaber, SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and assistant coach Felix Jones having Irish links, as well as the likes of Kleyn and Snyman, who are currently plying their trade at Munster gave either side a special advantage.
“The teams have been facing one another for years, and just as they know us, we know them,” he said. “At the end of the day both teams have immense respect for one another, and while this aspect may be entertaining for the fans, the match will come down to who plays the most effective rugby on the day.”
Of the six-day turnaround for this match, Nienaber said: “We’ve known for a long time that we would have a shorter turnaround for this match, and we planned accordingly in terms of training and team selection for the last two games. The early kick-off against Romania also assisted as we had the whole night on Sunday to begin our recovery, so we are ready for what lies ahead.”
The Boks returned to the training field on Tuesday after having Monday off to rest and recover as they made the trip from Bordeaux to Paris by train.
Springbok team to face Ireland in Paris:
15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 35 caps, 56 pts (4t, 9c, 4pg, 2dg)
14 – Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls) – 11 caps, 60 pts (12t)
13 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) – 63 caps, 70 pts (14t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 74 caps, 50 pts (10t)
11 – Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath) – 27 caps, 81 pts (12t, 3c, 5pg)
10 – Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers) – 10 caps, 71 pts (1t, 21c, 8pg)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles) – 51 caps, 50 pts (5t, 5c, 5pg)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 24 caps, 5 pts (1t)
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 72 caps, 40 pts (8t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Racing 92) – 78 caps, 50 pts (10t)
5 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 68 caps, 15 pts (3t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 114 caps, 25 pts (5t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 65 caps, 5 pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 64 caps, 65 pts (13t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (Ulster) – 78 caps, 10 pts (2t)
16 – Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers) – 8 caps, 5 pts (1t)
17 – Ox Nche (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 23 caps, 0 pts
18 – Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92) – 64 caps, 5 pts (1t)
19 – Jean Kleyn (Munster) – 5 caps, 0 pts (Ireland 5 caps)
20 – RG Snyman (Munster) – 30 caps, 5 pts (1t)
21 – Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls) – 16 caps, 0 pts
22 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 35 caps, 30 pts (6t)
23 – Cobus Reinach (Montpellier) – 28 caps, 60 pts (12t)
Stats and facts:
Springbok record against Ireland:
Played 27, Won 18, Lost 8, Drawn 1. Points for: 522; Points against: 399. Tries scored: 71; Tries conceded: 37. Highest score: 38; Biggest win: 38 points (38-0). Average score: 19-15. Win %: 66,7%.
- Springbok wing Kurt-Lee Arendse will start the match with an impressive try-scoring record of 12 tries in 11 Tests.
- Springbok centre Damian de Allende will reach the 75 Test mark when he takes the field on Saturday.
- Saturday’s match will be the first time the Springboks and Ireland clash at a Rugby World Cup, making it the first Test between the two sides at a neutral venue.
- Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Steven Kitshoff, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi, Faf de Klerk and Damian de Allende are the only players left from the last time the Boks beat Ireland – on 25 June 2016, in Nelson Mandela Bay.
- Kitshoff and Mbonambi made their Springbok debuts in the same match against Ireland seven years ago, while De Klerk and Mostert debuted earlier in that series against the Irish.
- Replacement forwards Jean Kleyn, RG Snyman and Marco van Staden will face Ireland for the first time.
- The Springboks have won their last seven Tests in the French capital. Their last defeat in the city was in 2005 by France (20-26).
- The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 833.
- There are 271 caps in the backline, with 562 caps among the forwards. On the bench there are a further 208 caps.
- The average caps per player in the backline is 38, the forwards 70, while the players on the bench average 26.