Pack shake-up for Boks
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has shuffled his pack for the must-win World Cup clash with Italy in Shizuoka on Friday.
Front row forwards Tendai Mtawarira and Mbongeni Mbonambi, as well as lock Lodewyk de Jager, have been promoted to the ‘A-Team’.
The inclusion of the three tight forwards are the only changes to the starting XV that did duty in the opening Pool B meeting with New Zealand.
Mtawarira, Mbonambi and De Jager leapfrog Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Franco Mostert respectively – who are all expected to make an impact from the bench after the interval.
Two players drop out from the New Zealand match 23 completely – with Trevor Nyakane (who has returned home with a calf injury) and Jesse Kriel (hamstring) not considered because of injury.
Nyakane is replaced by Vincent Koch, while there is not a direct replacement for Kriel.
Erasmus has opted to name only two back replacements on the bench and six forwards.
De Jager, who carried the water against New Zealand, is the other new name to the line-up along with Koch.
“Italy has a very good pack and put a lot of effort in their set phases,” said Erasmus.
“People may think it is a gamble to have only two back replacements but we want to have plenty of ammunition for what is likely to be a major forward battle.
“It’s a 23-player game these days and the players who come on will be expected to contribute almost as much in game time as those who start among the front row forwards.
“But for this game, we are asking the players we have chosen to start to set the tone.”
The Springboks must win to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the quarterfinals.
💥 BREAKING! Big men shuffled for Italian onslaught
‼ Beast, Bongi and Lood to start in Shizuoka
🗣 “This game is going to be decided by the forwards”
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 1, 2019
The teams have met 14 times before, with South Africa winning 13.
The solitary defeat (in Florence in 2016) was with a team featuring 10 of Friday’s Bok selection (in what turned out to be Bryan Habana’s final Springbok Test).
“Italy has had their eyes on this match for a couple of years and will have planned and schemed how to bring us down once again,” said Erasmus.
“This is a defining match for them and while we were focusing on the New Zealand game, they will have had their eyes on this one as the key to the quarterfinals for them.
“That means we have to be at our absolute best if we are to beat them – we are at the stage already where there are no second chances. That’s a message we have been emphasising to the players this week.”
Erasmus believes the team has the resources to ‘manage’ the two-backs-and-six-forwards selection.
“We have versatile players in the backs who can cover a number of positions and we have planned for different scenarios,” he said.
“This game is going to be decided by the forwards and at the set phases and we wanted to maximise our options in those battles.”
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn.
Date: Friday, October 4
Venue: Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Shizuoka Prefecture
Kick-off: 18.45 (11.45 SA and Italian time; 09.45 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)