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Experience key as Nienaber announces team to face France

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Springbok flyhalf Manie Libbok will be the pivot when South Africa line-up in their quarterfinal World Cup clash with France at the Stade de France in Paris on Sunday evening.

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Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber named an experienced team – including 15 players who featured in the 2019 final – for their World Cup quarterfinal against France at the Stade de France in Paris on Sunday evening.

A further four players in the 23 to face the in-form hosts were also part of the 2019 squad while only four were not present in Japan among a team bristling with experience.

“Most of these players have World Cup experience and several of them were involved in the 2019 final, so they know what it takes to perform in big moments,” said Nienaber.

“Twenty of these players were also in the match-day squad that played France in Marseille last season, which was a good dress rehearsal for what we can expect from France and their supporters.”

Eight of Sunday’s starting XV started in the 32-12 victory over England four years ago: Siya Kolisi, who will captain the Boks again, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen, Bongi Mbonambi, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Damian de Allende and Cheslin Kolbe.

Seven other players from the 2019 final are also in the 23 in starting forwards Franco Mostert and Steven Kitshoff, as well as back replacements Willie le Roux, Handre Pollard and Faf de Klerk, and forward replacements RG Snyman and Vincent Koch.

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The only players in the 23 who do not have a winners’ medal are Kurt-Lee Arendse, Manie Libbok and replacements Deon Fourie and Ox Nche.

The starting team shows 11 personnel changes to the side that defeated Tonga 49-18 in Marseille two weeks ago but, more pertinently, shows only two changes from the team that faced Ireland – with De Klerk moving to the bench and Vermeulen selected at No 8 in place of Jasper Wiese.

Kitshoff, Mbonambi and Malherbe will pack down in the front row, while Etzebeth and Mostert will pair up at lock, with Kolisi, Du Toit and Vermeulen forming the loose trio.

In the backline, Libbok and Cobus Reinach will join forces in an exciting attacking halfback combination, with De Allende and Kriel on duty in the midfield, Kolbe and Arendse on the wings, while Damian Willemse will be at fullback.

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Nienaber’s replacements bench features five forwards and three backs. Fourie serves as the impact hooker, with Nche and Koch (both props), Snyman (lock) and Smith (loose forward).

The three backline players among the replacements are also very experienced, with a combined total of 209 caps between De Klerk, Pollard and Le Roux, who started at scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback in Yokohama four years ago.

“We’ve been working with most of these players since 2018 and we’ve been building a squad capable of defending our title,” said Nienaber.

“We believe this group will offer us the impetus we need against a quality French side that will be playing in front of a passionate home crowd.”

Nienaber said he relished the prospect of facing the hosts at one of the world’s iconinc rugby stadiums in the quarterfinal.

“It’s going to be a massive clash for the players and supporters and we’re really excited about the prospect,” he said. “We’ve been working toward this World Cup since 2018 and we can now book a place in the semifinal, so we have to go out there and give everything.

“It’s do-or-die in the tournament, so we have to be accurate in executing our game plan and we have to capitalise on our opportunities because the margins will be small.

“We know the match is going to be as intense as last year, if not more intense. We had a red card in that match but we were still in with a chance to win it with three or four minutes to go, so discipline will again be important and we’ll have to maintain our good disciplinary record.”

South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt–Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Koble, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Handre Pollard, 23 Willie le Roux

Date: Sunday, October 15
Venue: Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Kick-off: 21.00 (19.00 GMT, 21.00 CEST)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

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