Scrumhalf, Faf de Klerk, will earn his 50th Springbok cap on Sunday when the Boks open their 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign against Scotland in Marseilles, France.
Head coach of the defending champions, Jacques Nienaber, named his 23-man squad on Wednesday night after receiving permission from World Rugby to announce the team earlier than usual.
De Klerk is one of 11 players to retain their starting places from the team, which clinched a record 35-7 victory against New Zealand two weeks ago, as Nienaber tweaked the selection for their opening match in what has been dubbed “the pool of death”.
There is only one change in the Springbok starting forward pack at No 8, where Jasper Wiese takes over from Duane Vermeulen, who moves to the bench. The changes in the backline see Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel reunite in a midfield pairing, and Cheslin Kolbe returns as a left wing in place of Makazole Mapimpi.
Nienaber opted for a six-two split in favour of the forwards on the replacements’ bench with Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman, Marco van Staden and Vermeulen named as the impact forwards, while Grant Williams and Willie le Roux provide backline cover.
Two players, utility back Canan Moodie and lock Jean Kleyn, were not considered for selection due to hamstring and knee niggles respectively.
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Nienaber commended de Klerk for reaching a significant career milestone.
“Earning 50 Test caps is a massive achievement and to mark that feat in the opening game of the Rugby World Cup makes it very special. Faf has been a key member of our team for a few years, so we are delighted for him. Needless to say, we’re all focused on making sure it’s a memorable occasion for him and the rest of us.”
Scotland are ranked fifth in the world, the Boks number two and pool rivals, Ireland, number one. Only two teams can qualify for the quarter-finals while Tonga and Romania lie in wait for the unsuspecting.
“Scotland are a quality team with a strong pack and skillful backs, and they play with a lot of intensity, so we need to be sharp on attack and defence on Sunday. They have proved in the last few seasons that they can beat any team, and with this being the opening game of the World Cup for both sides, they will be equally as charged up as us for the match.”
The Springboks have only played Scotland twice since Nienaber and director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, took over the coaching reins in 2018 – a 26-20 victory in 2018 and a 30-15 win in 2021, both in Edinburgh.
Springbok team to face Scotland in Marseille:
15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 33 caps, 41 points (3t, 4c, 4pg, 2dg)
14 – Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls) – 10 caps, 55 points (11t)
13 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) – 62 caps, 70 points (14t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 73 caps, 50 points (10t)
11 – Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath) – 26 caps, 81 points (12t, 3c, 5pg)
10 – Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers) – 9 caps, 65 points (1t, 21c, 6pg)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles) – 49 caps, 44 points (5t, 2c, 5pg)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 23 caps, 5 points (1t)
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 71 caps, 35 points (7t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Racing 92) – 77 caps, 50 points (10t)
5 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 67 caps, 15 points (3t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 113 caps, 25 points (5t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 63 caps, 5 points (1t)
2 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 63 caps, 85 points (17t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (Ulster) – 76 caps, 10 points (2t)
16 – Bongi Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 62 caps, 65 points (13t)
17 – Ox Nche (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 21 caps, 0 points
18 – Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92) – 62 caps, 5 points (1t)
19 – RG Snyman (Munster) – 28 caps, 5 points (1t)
20 – Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls) – 14 caps, 0 points
21 – Duane Vermeulen (SA Rugby) – 70 caps, 15 points (3t)
22 – Grant Williams (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 5 caps, 0 points
23 – Willie le Roux (Vodacom Bulls) – 87 caps, 65 points (13t)
Written by: Ntsako Mukhari