Springboks admit they are taking a ‘risk’ in huge Rugby World Cup clash against Ireland

Colin Newboult

Cheslin Kolbe in action for Springboks against Scotland in Rugby World Cup.

Cheslin Kolbe and Jacques Nienaber know the “risk” the Springboks are taking with their team selection for this weekend’s massive Rugby World Cup encounter.

South Africa take on Ireland in Paris on Saturday with the winner of the match likely to top Pool B.

The Springboks have named their best available side but are going with the innovative 7-1 split on the bench.

That means two injuries in the backline could significantly hamper them, with scrum-half Cobus Reinach the only non-forward among the replacements.

Back-row Kwagga Smith will feature behind the scrum in case of an emergency, given his athleticism, skill set and Sevens background.

However, the 7-1 tactic worked well against New Zealand in a World Cup warm-up and they are repeating it against the world number one side.

Respect the coaches’ decision

“We respect the decision of the coaches and we as players just go out, whoever gets selected, to prepare as well as we can throughout the week,” wing Kolbe told reporters.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of [talking] about it, but that’s things we as players can’t control. We just focus on the things we can control, and make sure that we don’t get distracted by what’s said.

“There is risk added as well, but we are quite fortunate to have players that can play in various positions and do as well as the player that’s been selected to start there.

“We just back each other up whenever we go out on that field and make sure that we play for each other. We support each other, whether it’s a good or bad decision.”

Boks head coach Nienaber was inevitably asked about his decision to select a 7-1 bench and he responded that it was a “calculated risk”.

“There are guys on that bench who cover various positions, but that is not something I’d like to go into too much because it is probably more tactical,” he said.

“I don’t want to talk too much about tactics. We have a lot of versatility in the squad and we showed that on the weekend by playing four nines [scrum-halves]. But we are comfortable with the risk we are taking.”

South Africa have so far defeated Scotland (18-3) and Romania (76-0) in the 2023 World Cup, going with 6-2 and 5-3 splits respectively among the replacements.

By adding an extra forward for the match against Ireland, the Springboks are once again showing their tactical versatility.

Countering Ireland’s threat

“It worked well in that specific game (against the All Blacks),” Nienaber added.

“The bench had a big impact, not only in that game but also on the weekend [against Romania].

“We analysed Ireland and after looking at them and what they bring and what we think we will need in this specific game from a tactical point of view and trying to counter everything they do – that’s the reason we went with 7-1.

“I don’t think necessarily Ireland and New Zealand are similar in how they do things. It’s for this specific game.

“The ‘bomb squad’ that came on against Scotland also had a big impact. That’s what we want.

“I don’t call them finishers or stuff like that. The guys that start and guys who come off the bench have a role to fulfil. That’s why when we talk about our front-rowers, we don’t talk about first choice or second choice. It doesn’t necessarily work like that in our team.

“The guys who start have a specific role to perform and the moment we see that being achieved, we bring the other guys off the bench.”

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