Springboks opt for a 7-1 split for Rugby World Cup final against the All Blacks

Dylan Coetzee
South Africa's Duane Vermeulen grabs the shorts of a teammate in the scrum during the Rugby World Cup semifinal match between England and South Africa at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis

South Africa's Duane Vermeulen grabs the shorts of a teammate in the scrum during the Rugby World Cup semifinal match between England and South Africa at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis

Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has opted for a 7-1 split on the bench for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final against the All Blacks.

In the starting line-up, 2019 World Cup-winning half-backs Handre Pollard and Faf de Klerk return to earn their 25th start as a pair, making their partnership the most experienced in Springbok history, surpassing Joost van der Westhuizen and Henry Honiball.

Outside of Pollard, the battle-hardened midfield pairing of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel continue their work in the centres, whilst the back-three is unchanged, with Damian Willemse named alongside the lethal wing duo of Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse.

Power pack

Skipper Siya Kolisi makes history by becoming the most capped Springbok captain at World Cups, with 12 moving ahead of John Smit. He is joined by veterans Duane Vermeulen and Pieter-Steph du Toit in the back-row.

In the tight five, 2023 World Rugby Player of the Year Nominee, Eben Etzebeth continues at lock alongside his tireless partner Franco Mostert, whilst the front-row is unchanged with Frans Malherbe, Steven Kitshoff and Bongi Mbonambi in the coalface.

On the bench, versatile Deon Fourie is the hooker replacement alongside front-rows Ox Nche and Trevor Nyakane. There are two Munster second-rowers, Jean Kleyn and RG Snyman, as forward options alongside loose forwards Kwagga Smith and Jasper Wiese. Willie le Roux is the only backline player on the bench.

Vastly experienced

It is the most experienced line-up in Springboks history, with 987 caps and players who played in the 2019 final – something Nienaber believes will be crucial.

“This is an experienced team with several players who played in the last Rugby World Cup final and who know exactly what to expect at Stade de France on Saturday and what it will take to retain the title,” said Nienaber.

“The players who will be playing in their first World Cup final have also proven their worth as warriors throughout this campaign and they are all ready for this massive occasion.

“We have said many times that we pick teams for varying gameplans depending on the opponent and that we use all 23 players to try and achieve those goals.

“We’ve gone from a five-three bench split to a seven-one split to give us the best chance of being successful. We have plans in place to mitigate for injuries in the backline, but we’re excited about our plan and we embrace the risk.”

Proud moments

The coach thanked the contributions of every player who has been involved with the development of the team.

“This a huge day for the entire squad – and the guys who played for us earlier in the season,” he said.

“As a coaching team, we are proud of the contribution that every player in the larger squad made in getting us to the final to create this opportunity.

“We know we are in for a colossal battle. Every point and inch will count in this match, and we know it will take another top-class effort to come out on top on Saturday.”

Nienaber is looking to make his country proud and believes the support from back home is important for the team.

“The messages of support and videos from home have inspired us immensely, and we know the magnitude of this occasion, not just for the players and management – who have made huge sacrifices to get us here – but for what this day means for our country,” he said.

“We are proud of the fact that we have given some hope and excitement to so many people in the last few months, and we’ll give everything to bring further joy to our wonderful nation on Saturday.

“Matches between the Springboks and All Blacks are always special and hard-fought, and with this being a World Cup final, the rivalry is expected to be more intense. They have an experienced squad with a physical pack and a backline that can create magic from nothing, so we’ll have to be at our best on attack and defence to get the result.”

Team for the final

Springboks: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 RG Snyman, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Jasper Wiese, 23 Willie le Roux

Date: Saturday, October 28
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 BST, 19:00 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)

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