Springboks head coach Rassie Erasmus has named an experienced matchday squad for their Rugby World Cup quarter-final with Japan in Tokyo on Sunday.
Erasmus reverted to the same starting line-up and replacements that recorded a 49-3 victory over Italy a fortnight ago.
It means 13 changes to the run-on side from the one which concluded the Boks’ pool campaign with a 66-7 demolition of Canada in Kobe last Tuesday, and Erasmus said the Boks are ready for the challenge.
Only Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende – who switches from outside centre back to the more familiar inside centre position – are retained from the Kobe XV.
Front-rowers Tendai Mtawarira and Bongi Mbonambi, as well as Lood de Jager all start, having been elevated to the XV from the one which lost against New Zealand in the opening match of the tournament.
The starting XV boasts 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.
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 number eight – 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.
12 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.
6⃣6⃣5⃣ combined Test caps for the Boks
💥💥 Another record in Handre Pollard's reach
5⃣0⃣ Tests for Duane Vermeulen at No 8
📊 Get all the facts and stats ⬇
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 17, 2019
De Jager and prop Vincent Koch – who is on the bench – are the only two players who were not in the matchday 23 for the victory over Japan.
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.
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 winner will play the victor in the France v Wales match in Yokohama on Sunday, 27 October.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Francois Louw, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn
Date: Sunday, October 20
Venue: Tokyo Stadium
Kick-off: 19:15 local (11:15 BST, 10:15 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Luke Pearce (England)
Television match official: Rowan Kitt (England)