Experienced Bok team named for RWC quarter-final

Experienced Bok team named for RWC quarter-final

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber named an experienced team – including 15 players who featured in the 2019 final – for their Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France at the Stade de France in Paris on Sunday evening.

A further four players in the 23 to face the in-form hosts were also part of the 2019 squad while only four were not present in Japan among a team bristling with experience.

“Most of these players have Rugby World Cup experience and several of them were involved in the 2019 final, so they know what it takes to perform in big moments,” said Nienaber.

“Twenty of these players were also in the matchday squad that played France in Marseille last season, which was a good dress rehearsal for what we can expect from France and their supporters.”

Eight of Sunday’s starting XV started in the 32-12 victory over England four years ago: Siya Kolisi, who will captain the Boks again, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen, Bongi Mbonambi, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Damian de Allende and Cheslin Kolbe.

Seven other players from the 2019 final are also in the 23 in starting forwards Franco Mostert and Steven Kitshoff, as well as back replacements Willie le Roux, Handre Pollard and Faf de Klerk, and forward replacements RG Snyman and Vincent Koch.

The only players in the 23 who do not have a winners’ medal are Kurt-Lee Arendse, Manie Libbok and replacements Deon Fourie and Ox Nche.

The starting team shows 11 personnel changes to the side that defeated Tonga 49-18 in Marseille two weeks ago but, more pertinently, shows only two changes from the team that faced Ireland – with De Klerk moving to the bench and Vermeulen selected at No 8 in place of Jasper Wiese.

Kitshoff, Mbonambi and Malherbe will pack down in the front row, while Etzebeth and Mostert will pair up at lock, with Kolisi, Du Toit and Vermeulen forming the loose trio.

In the backline, Libbok and Cobus Reinach will join forces in an exciting attacking halfback combination, with De Allende and Kriel on duty in the midfield, Kolbe and Arendse on the wings, while Damian Willemse will be at fullback.

Nienaber’s replacements bench features five forwards and three backs. Fourie serves as the impact hooker, with Nche and Koch (both props), Snyman (lock) and Smith (loose forward).

The three backline players among the replacements are also very experienced, with a combined total of 209 caps between De Klerk, Pollard and Le Roux, who started at scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback in Yokohama four years ago.

“We’ve been working with most of these players since 2018 and we’ve been building a squad capable of defending our title,” said Nienaber.

“We believe this group will offer us the impetus we need against a quality French side that will be playing in front of a passionate home crowd.”

Nienaber said he relished the prospect of facing the hosts at one of the world’s iconinc rugby stadiums in the quarter-final.

“It’s going to be a massive clash for the players and supporters and we’re really excited about the prospect,” he said. “We’ve been working toward this World Cup since 2018 and we can now book a place in the semi-final, so we have to go out there and give everything.

“It’s do-or-die in the tournament, so we have to be accurate in executing our game plan and we have to capitalise on our opportunities because the margins will be small.

“We know the match is going to be as intense as last year, if not more intense. We had a red card in that match but we were still in with a chance to win it with three or four minutes to go, so discipline will again be important and we’ll have to maintain our good disciplinary record.”

Springbok team to face France in Paris:

15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 36 caps, 56 pts (4t, 9c, 4p, 2d)
14 – Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls) – 12 caps, 60 pts (12t)
13 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) – 65 caps, 75 pts (15t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 75 caps, 50 pts (10t)
11 – Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath) – 28 caps, 86 pts (13t, 3c, 5p)
10 – Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers) – 12 caps, 80 pts (1t, 24c, 9p)
9 – Cobus Reinach (Montpellier) – 29 caps, 60 pts (12t)
8 – Duane Vermeulen (SA Rugby) – 73 caps, 15 pts (3t)
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 73 caps, 40 pts (8t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Racing 92) – 80 caps, 50 pts (10t)
5 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 70 caps, 15 pts (3t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 116 caps, 25 pts (5t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 66 caps, 5pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 65 caps, 65pts (13t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (Ulster) – 80 caps, 10 pts (2t)


16 – Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers) – 10 caps, 10 pts (2t)
17 – Ox Nche (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 25 caps, 0 pts
18 – Vincent Koch (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 47 caps, 0pts
19 – RG Snyman (Munster) – 31 caps, 5pts (1t)
20 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 37 caps, 35 pts (7t)
21 – Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles) – 52 caps, 48 pts (5t, 4c, 5p)
22 – Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers) – 67 caps, 673 pts (7t, 94c, 145p, 5d)
23 – Willie le Roux (Vodacom Bulls) – 90 caps, 75 pts (15t)

Stats and Facts:

Springbok record against France:
Played 45; Won 27; Lost 12; Drawn 6. Points for: 965, Points against: 692. Tries scored 107, Tries conceded 61. Highest score 52-10; Biggest win 42 points. Average score: 21-15. Win % 60%.


  • Eben Etzebeth will equal Tendai Mtawarira’s 117 Test caps, meaning they will share third place on the list of most-capped Springboks.
  • The 880 caps in the starting team is the second-most ever for the Springboks – the most experienced team, with 891 combined caps – ran out against Samoa at Rugby World Cup in 2015.
  • The starting pack is the most experienced ever fielded by the Springboks sharing 623 caps. All eight have made a half century of test appearances and average 78 caps per man.
  • Eight players who will feature on Sunday, played against Samoa in 2015: Willie le Roux, Damian De Allende, Handre Pollard, Duane Vermeulen and Eben Etzebeth started, with Frans Malherbe, Siya Kolisi and Jesse Kriel on the bench.
  • The two replacement props, Ox Nche and Vincent Koch, are the only players in the match-23 who have not yet scored any Test points.
  • Kurt-Lee Arendse enters the match with an impressive try-scoring record of 12 tries in his 12 Test matches.
  • Pollard, with 665 Test points in the Springbok jersey, in in third place behind Morne Steyn (742) and Percy Montgomery (893).


  • This is just the second time France and South Africa have met at the Rugby World Cup. The previous meeting was in 1995 when the Springboks edged the semifinal 19-15 in a Durban downpour.
  • France (10 times) and South Africa (eight times) are two of just three teams to have reached the quarter-finals in each edition of the Rugby World Cup that they have participated in (also New Zealand, 10).
  • The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 880.
  • There are 257 caps in the backline, with 623 caps among the forwards. On the bench there are a further 359 caps.
  • The average caps per player in the backline is 37, the forwards 78, while the players on the bench average 45.

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