Sun. Sep 20th, 2020

Springboks bring out the big guns for Japan RWC battle

The Springboks have named a strong starting XV and subs bench to face Japan in Tokyo on Sunday in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals.

springboks bring out the big guns for japan rwc battle 1024x683 - Springboks bring out the big guns for Japan RWC battle

The Springboks have named the same starting XV and replacements that recorded a 49-3 victory over Italy a fortnight ago for their quarterfinal against Japan in Tokyo on Sunday.

Rassie Erasmus made 13 changes to the starting XV from the one which rounded off the Boks’ pool campaign with a 66-7 demolition of Canada in Kobe last Tuesday.

Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende – who switches from outside centre back to the more familiar inside centre position – are retained from the team that beat the Canucks comfortably.

They are joined in the line-up by the balance of the starting XV from the seven-try-to-nil overwhelming of Italy in what appears to be the designated first string.

“We were satisfied with the performance against Italy and want to build on that,” said Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby and head coach.

“We have been improving and building momentum this season and we will be looking for further improvements this weekend.

“Japan are a well-coached team and have deservedly climbed to seventh in the world rankings. It’ll be a good challenge but we’re definitely up for it.”

Tight forwards Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi, and Lood de Jager retain their places in the starting line-up, having been elevated to the starting lineup after being named on the bench against New Zealand in the opening match of the tournament.

15c11c1b lood de jager - Springboks bring out the big guns for Japan RWC battle
South Africa’s lock Lood De Jager (C) catches the ball in a line out during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and Namibia at the City of Toyota Stadium in Toyota City on September 28, 2019. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

Experienced Springboks

The starting XV boasts a four-year high of 665 caps – the most in a Springbok team since the 2015 Rugby World Cup – when the squad included three Test centurions in Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana.

“When we set out on this campaign at the start of last season, one of the things we said we wanted to do was broaden and deepen the experience in the squad,” said Erasmus.

“We’re now in a position where everyone in the starting XV has had a proper taste of top-level Test rugby and we’ve got a strong spine of Test experience for these high-pressure matches.

“You need that experience when it comes to handling the pressure situations we will face on Sunday and I think we’ve achieved that now.”

The team to meet Japan contains five players with 50 or more caps in Willie le Roux, Duane Vermeulen (who wins 50th cap as a No 8 – a Springbok record), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth and centurion Mtawarira. There are another four players in the 40s in Kolisi, De Jager, De Allende and Handré Pollard.

Twelve of the starting XV – and 21 of the 23 – were in the team that overcame Japan six-tries-to-one (41-7) in Kumagaya, Japan, six weeks ago. The only absentees are Trevor Nyakane (prop) and Jesse Kriel (centre), who have both been invalided out of the tournament.

De Jager and prop Vincent Koch – who is on the bench – are the only two players who were not in the match 23 for the victory over Japan.

Bok bulk added to the bench

Erasmus again announced a six-two replacement split in favour of the forwards (rather than the traditional five-three), as was successfully deployed against the Azzurri.

“We will look at our replacement strategy on a game-by-game basis and for this opponent on this occasion we believe we’ll need fresh legs among the forwards at some point,” said Erasmus.

“We’re very fortunate in that we have a squad that has a number of highly versatile players among forwards and backs who can slot into a number of positions to cover all eventualities.”

The Springboks are aiming to reach the Rugby World Cup semi-finals for the fifth time in seven appearances while, for Japan, it is their first appearance in the play-off rounds at the ninth attempt.

The Brave Blossoms qualified to play in the quarterfinal match of the ninth Rugby World Cup tournament by winning all four pool matches in Pool A that included Ireland and Scotland. 

Japan competed in all RWC tournaments between 1987and 2015, winning four Test matches from a total of 28. Their first win against a Tier 1 country was in 2015 against South Africa with a score of 34-32. At the time it was described as the “greatest RWC shock ever”.

The Brave Blossoms have risen to 7th on the World Rugby Rankings thanks to their RWC exploits.

The winner will play the victor in the France v Wales match in Yokohama on Sunday, 27 October.

The Springboks’s quarterfinal with Japan kicks off at 12:15 (SA time, 19h15 local) and is available on SuperSport channel 201 and SABC radio.

Springbok team

15. Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz, Japan), 58 caps – 60 points (12 tries)

14. Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse, France), 12 – 35 (7t)

13. Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), 12 – 15 (3t)

12. Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers), 44 – 25 (5t)

11. Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks), 11 – 55 (11t)

10. Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls), 45 – 410 (6t, 70c, 76p, 4d)

9. Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England), 27 – 15 (3t)

8. Duane Vermeulen (Vodacom Bulls), 51 – 15 (3t)

7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), 52 – 25 (5t)

6. Siya Kolisi (captain, DHL Stormers), 47 – 30 (6t)

5. Lood de Jager (Vodacom Bulls) 42 – 25 (5t)

4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), 82 – 15 (3t)

3. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), 35 – 5 (1t)

2. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 33 – 35 (7t)

1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 114 – 10 (2t)


16. Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), 30 – 25 (5t)

17. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), 44 – 5 (1t)

18. Vincent Koch (Saracens, England) 18 – 0

19. RG Snyman (Vodacom Bulls), 20 – 5 (1t)

20. Franco Mostert (Gloucester, England), 36 – 5 (1t)

21. Francois Louw (Bath, England), 73 – 50 (10t)

22. Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers), 8 – 20 (4t)

23. Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France), 64 – 141 (11t, 7c, 21p, 3d)

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