Jacques Nienaber has named a Springboks team to face Ireland this Saturday in Dublin that shows three changes – including a recall for Cheslin Kolbe – from the September 24 Rugby Championship win over Argentina in Durban. With Frans Steyn, the starting No10 in that 38-21 victory, and Canan Moodie absent from the tour through injury, there was never the opportunity for South Africa to name the exact same XV from TRC round six for their Autumn Nations Series opener against the world’s current No1 ranked side.
Damian Willemse comes in for Steyn at fly-half and Kurt-Lee Arendse is promoted from the Durban bench in place of Moodie, but the change that will capture most Springboks headlines is the return of the fit-again Kolbe, who will start at full-back in place of the benched Willie le Roux.
Kolbe has never worn the No15 jersey in his 16 previous Test starts, but his five initial Top 14 starts for Toulon all came at full-back with his last selection in that position taking place last February against Brive.
The Springboks starting pack remains unchanged from the eight that defeated Argentina and aside from the Arendse/le Roux swap, there is a change in the six forwards/two backs replacements split where Deon Fourie takes over for Duane Vermeulen, who wasn’t selected for the tour.
“We selected a team we believe contains the best combinations to counter the threats posed by Ireland,” said Springboks boss Nienaber. “Damian has done well for us at fly-half and he is continuing to grow as a player in that role, while we think Cheslin has the potential to add a new dimension to our game at full-back. He was sidelined for a while after breaking his jaw against Wales, but he has played four 80-minute matches for Toulon since returning to play and we are confident that he will step up to the challenge.”
The man with the dancing feet is back – in a new position – when the #Springboks face @IrishRugby in Dublin on Saturday – team announcement: https://t.co/oPabqKxI1r ?#StrongerTogether #StrongerForever #IREVRSA pic.twitter.com/xso1ZtTJc1
— Springboks (@Springboks) November 1, 2022
Nienaber added that Kolbe will also provide fly-half cover: “Cheslin has delivered star performances for his clubs in France at fly-half, so he will slot in as a back-up fly-half if necessary, while Faf is another option for us at No10 as well. Damian Willemse can also move to inside centre if we need cover there, while Damian de Allende can play outside centre and Willie full-back and this allowed us to opt for a six-two split on the bench.
“Ireland are the top-ranked team in the world currently and they have shown in the past that they can be a force to be reckoned with in Dublin. We last faced them on their home patch in 2017 and they beat us 38-3 in that match, and they also beat us here 29-15 in 2014 and they will draw confidence from that.
“Similarly to us, they will also view this as a vital clash with an eye on next year’s Rugby World Cup in France where we will cross paths in the pool stages. Obviously, we are a long way out from the World Cup, but we have a limited number of matches left before the competition and the preparation doesn’t get better than playing a side we will face in the World Cup and the No1 side in the world.
“This match is important for us for many reasons, one of which is to test our player combinations with the World Cup less than a year away.”
On the injury front, Nienaber said Sbu Nkosi (wing) and Marco van Staden (flanker), who suffered rib injuries in the Vodacom Bulls’ clash against the Cell C Sharks in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship on Sunday, would not join the squad and will not be replaced at this stage as there is sufficient cover in the touring group.
Springboks (vs Ireland, Saturday)
15 – Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon) – 20 caps, 50 pts (10t)
14 – Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls) – 3 caps, 10 pts (2t)
13 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) – 56 caps, 60 pts (12t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 66 caps, 45 pts (9t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 33 caps, 110 pts (22t)
10 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 23 caps, 19 pts (1t, 4c, 2p)
9 – Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks) – 10 caps, 12 pts (2t, 1c)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 18 caps, 5 pts (1t)
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 64 caps, 15 pts (3t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 71 caps, 35 pts (7t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Wild Knights) – 64 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 106 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 54 caps, 5 pts (1t)
2 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 55 caps, 65 pts (13t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 67 caps, 5 pts (1t)
16 – Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 52 caps, 55 pts (11t)
17 – Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks) – 15 caps, 0 pts
18 – Vincent Koch (unattached) – 38 caps, 0 pts
19 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 59 caps, 10 pts (2t)
20 – Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers) – 3 caps, 0 pts
21 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 27 caps, 15 pts (3t)
22 – Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles) – 42 caps, 25 pts (5t)
23 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 79 caps, 65 pts (13t)