Eben Etzebeth returns from injury in one of 13 personnel changes and a positional switch for the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup clash 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’. 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 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 and RG Snyman are paired on the bench with loose forwards Marco van Staden and the versatile Kwagga Smith.
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.”
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.