As the Rugby World Cup kicks off, South Africa is gearing up for its title defense in the highly-anticipated clash against Scotland. While the match against Ireland has been hyped as the pool’s defining contest, South Africa’s coach, Jacques Nienaber, believes Scotland’s recent victory over formidable France is a testament to their potential.
In preparation for the opening Pool B game in Marseille, South Africa has made several key lineup changes. Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse are set to take the wings, with Damian Willemse at fullback in place of Willie le Roux. The decision to bring Kolbe back into the lineup is among four changes to the starting team that showcased their might by defeating New Zealand 35-7, setting a record at Twickenham just two weeks ago.
In the forward pack, the sole change sees Jasper Wiese starting at No. 8, while Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel step in as the centers. They replace Andre Esterhuizen and Canan Moodie, who were ruled out due to a hamstring twinge.
Captain Siya Kolisi will be playing his third consecutive game after recovering from knee surgery, showing his leadership and commitment to the team’s success.
South Africa has opted for a six-forwards and two-backs bench split, choosing a more balanced approach compared to the 7-1 split in their previous encounter against New Zealand.
As the Boks prepare to face Scotland, they will be banking on the experience of Faf de Klerk, who will make his 50th test appearance. De Klerk pairs with Manie Libbok as the first-choice No. 10, following Handre Pollard’s absence due to injury.
Nienaber acknowledged Scotland’s formidable qualities, emphasizing their strength in the pack and skilled backs, along with their intense playing style. The Boks are focused on ensuring their attack and defense are sharp for this significant match.
Makazole Mapimpi, known for his try-scoring heroics in the 2019 World Cup final against England, was notably absent from the 23-man squad, highlighting the Springboks’ depth and rotation strategy as they prepare to face Romania, Ireland, and Tonga in a challenging pool.
As South Africa sets out on their title defense, Nienaber expressed that they are still a work in progress but remain dedicated to refining their game in this World Cup, acknowledging the changes and improvements in all participating teams since the last tournament.