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Erasmus goes with World Cup recipe

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus named an experienced squad featuring 20 World Cup-winners.

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The entire starting 15 and five players on the replacements’ bench – for their opening Ireland Test at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday – featured in the tournament in Paris in October.

The three players in the match-day 23 who did not participate in the international spectacle in France, where the Springboks claimed their second successive World Cup title, are Gerhard Steenekamp (prop), Salmaan Moerat (lock) and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (utility back).

They are elevated to a selection featuring a six-two bench split in favour of the forwards.

Twelve of the starting XV for Saturday’s showdown (six forwards and six backs) started in the 12-11 World Cup Final victory over New Zealand, with the other three (Willie le Roux, Kwagga Smith and Ox Nche) coming off the bench in the Final.

The selection of previously unavailable players means that the team shows eight changes to the one that defeated Wales by 41-13 in London 10 days ago, as Erasmus welcomed back captain Siya Kolisi, Le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Handre Pollard, Marco van Staden, RG Snyman and Steenekamp.

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“This is the team we believe will give us the impetus we need against Ireland, who are the second highest ranked team in the world,” said Erasmus.

“We are blessed to have a lot of depth in our squad, and we are in a fortunate position to have several World Cup winners in our ranks who know what it takes to perform at the highest level and play against the best teams in the world,” Erasmus said.

“The fact that most of these guys have played together is a bonus for us, and most of them have faced Ireland before so they are well aware of the challenge that lies ahead, especially since we haven’t beaten them since 2016.”

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Erasmus said he was in a fortunate position to be able to call on so much World Cup-winning experience.

“It’s great to be in such a position, and while it may serve as a mental boost, Ireland are a quality outfit and they’ll come out guns blazing.

“This is a new year for us with new systems in place, so while it certainly helps that most of the players have won a World Cup or two, this is a fresh chapter for us.”

Erasmus said he was excited to see what dimension Steenekamp, Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Moerat would bring to the game – in what will mark Steenekamp and Feinberg-Mngomezulu’s second Test matches.

“Gerhard made a strong statement in the front row against Argentina in Buenos Aires last year and we were equally pleased with how easily Sacha slotted in and the contribution he made against Wales.

“Sacha, similarly to Grant [Williams], also offers us additional options in the backline, as he can cover flyhalf and centre, while Grant is efficient at scrumhalf and wing, which places us in a good position with the six-two split.

“Salmaan, in turn, may only have a few Test caps, but he’s a former Junior Springbok captain, he captained the Stormers, and like Sacha, he came through our Elite Player Development system, so they have been exposed to the way we do things at this level for some time now.

“This match will test their skills, but they are all quality players, in whom we have full faith, and it doesn’t get better to experience that against a team like Ireland.”

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Erasmus expected a physical onslaught from the visitors in front of a sold-out Loftus Versfeld crowd and said it would be a full-out battle for 80 minutes.

“Ireland have had the upper hand over us in the last few years and they will certainly want to build on that on Saturday,” said Erasmus.

“That said, we have a good idea of what to expect from them, especially after the World Cup last year.

“They have a few new players in their ranks this year, but so do we and that contributes to the excitement for the match.

“They are a physical team that never gives up, but the margins between the teams are fairly small, so it’s going to be an intense battle and one that will require a resolute performance for the full 80 minutes.”

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 RG Snyman, 21 Marco van Staden, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu.

Date: Saturday, July 6
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 17.00 (16.00 UK & Irish time; 15.00 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (England), Mike Adamson (Scotland)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

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