Eben Etzebeth and Faf de Klerk aside, the starting combinations against Wales on Saturday will start against Scotland in the Springboks World Cup opener in Marseilles on 8th September, writes Mark Keohane.
Saturday’s Springboks combination largely mirrors the core of the starting XV in the 2019 World Cup final.
No player from the 2019 World Cup final match 23 has missed out because the coaches have felt a loss of form or because another talent has surpassed them. Those who did the business in Japan four years ago have been unconditionally and unequivocally trusted to do it again in France.
Wille Le Roux starts at fullback and Cheslin Kolbe is a certain selection on the one wing. The other wing spot is a straight shoot-out between Makazole Mapimpi, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie. Mapimpi is the most experienced, Arendse is a jewel and Moodie is considered by many as the best of the three, in terms of his all-round game. Moodie gets to back up his Player of the Match performance against Argentina in Buenos Aires with another start against Wales on Saturday.
Jesse Kriel slots in for injured Lukhanyo Am at No 13, Damian de Allende is at inside centre and the halfbacks are Manie Libbok and Jaden Hendrikse. Libbok continues at No 10, with Handre Pollard still not match fit, while Hendrikse gets his first international outing of the year. De Klerk will start against Scotland and the next two weeks will determine how ready Pollard is to make the opener. Yes, he is still a consideration, as the Bok coach Jacques Nienaber keeps reinforcing publicly.
Duane Vermeulen is among the substitutes on Saturday but he will start at No 8 against Scotland, with the younger Jasper Wiese, starting in Cardiff, among the substitutes.
Pieter-Steph du Toit is the starting No 7 and Kolisi, if he gets through 40 minutes against Wales and 40 against the All Blacks a week later, will lead the Boks in the World Cup opener in the No 6 jersey.
The Munster lock pairing of Jean Kleyn and RG Snyman play Wales. Etzebeth will be starting against Scotland and Kleyn or Marvin Orie will partner him, with Snyman providing impact off the the bench.
Lock Lood de Jager, who was injured just 20 minutes into the 2019 final, is unavailable because of illness and a heart condition.
The same Bok front row in Cardiff will start against Scotland with Malcolm Marx’s role, as impact hooker, to be the same as at the 2019 World Cup.
The front row substitutions will also be in the mix, with the Ox Nche and Trevor Nyakane battling it out for the one reserve prop slot.
There are 12 changes to the starting XV that won so well in Buenos Aires and, with the exception of Etzebeth and De Klerk, it is the preferred option from the Bok coaches, who in each of the preceding four internationals in 2023 have made wholesale changes to their starting combinations.
The core of this starting XV were on display against the All Blacks in Auckland and Argentina in Johannesburg, and on both occasions delivered indifferent performances.
Saturday is important in the Boks producing a statement performance and, despite Wales’s struggles, one Bok win in their last five visits to Cardiff shows how much the Boks have struggled against the Dragons in recent years.
Erasmus and Nienaber, since 2018 have won one from three in Cardiff, two from three in South Africa and lost in Washington and won in the 2019 World Cup semi-final for a 50 percent success rate.