Rassie reveals his 'A-Team'
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus revealed the matchday squad to face Japan in their final World Cup warm-up game in Kumagaya on Friday.
With 22 of the 23 that played to a last-gasp draw against New Zealand in July, it is clearly also the first-choice selection that will again front up to the All Blacks in their opening match of the global showpiece in Yokohama on September 21.
It will also be the 50th Test appearance for Pieter-Steph du Toit, SA Rugby’s Player of the Year for 2018.
The return to the starting line-up of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, now fully recovered from injury, is the only change to the team that drew 16-all with the All Blacks – to open the way to a first Rugby Championship title and their first SANZAAR tournament with in a decade, in Wellington six weeks ago.
Erasmus underlined the significance of the challenge and warned the Boks not to be complacent against a very good Japanese team.
It means there are 18 changes in personnel to the last selection – the team which defeated Argentina, 26-24 in a warm-up match at Loftus Versfeld two weeks ago.
The only survivors of that match – along with Kolisi – are Rudolph Snyman and Jesse Kriel, who drop down to the bench, Francois de Klerk, who returns to the starting line-up, and Frans Steyn, who covers several positions from the bench, for a fifth successive time.
Kolisi replaces Albertus Smith – who drops out of the 23 altogether – in what has become an otherwise settled combination, appearing in essence for the third time this season.
This was also the group which clinched the Championship with a resounding 46-13 victory over the Pumas in Salta.
Japan beat Italy at home a year ago and also led England at half-time at Twickenham in November 2018, during a sequence of six victories in nine matches since the start of that year which has seen them climb the rankings to equal their highest place ever position of ninth.
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 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel.
Date: Friday, September 6
Venue: Kumagaya Stadium, Kumagaya City, Saitama
Kick-off: 19.15 (12.15 SA time; 10.15 GMT).
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)