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The 'A-Team' to beat Scotland

Playing selector is always better than being a selector. Your team never actually has to play.

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However, for this exercise I am going to attempt to select a team that can win a match – not a wishful thinking selection.

It is the opening match of World Cup #2023 and defending champions South Africa faces off against a tricky opponent – Scotland.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber dislikes the term, but he has no option but to play his ‘A-Team’.

Given the nature of Pool B, winning is the #ONLY option.

Defeat would leave either team with the unenviable task of having to beat world No.1 Ireland to remain alive in the play-off race.

Having given his 33-man World Cup squad members some decent game time, Jacques Nienaber now has a ‘full’ squad to select from – barring any training ground injuries.

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With that in mind, I have decided to play ‘selector’ and name my Springbok ‘A-Team’ to face Scotland in the opening round of the World Cup – in Marseille next Sunday, September 10.

(Article continues below …)

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The fullback decision is a coin toss between Willie le Roux and Damian Willemse, even though Willemse was listed at flyhalf in the World Cup squad announcement.

Both Le Roux and Willemse add plenty of punch on attach – the latter through his weaving and mazy runs, while Le Roux through his organisational skills. Neither is perfect.

My choice is Le Roux, with Willemse on the bench – that extra- last quarter counter-punch you get from him.

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The wings are a bit more complicated.

Kurt-Lee Arendse, Cheslin Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi and Canan Moodie are all worthy of a starting spot.

The question is: Do you go with youthful exuberance or seasoned experience?

Kolbe and Mapimpi are proven World Cup winners. Arendse and Moodie have been pushing really hard. Perhaps a mix – Kolbe and Arendse, but, as I said, they are all worthy.

The wing position is, without doubt, the most complicated of all the selections.

Centre has been made less complicated through injury.

Jesse Kriel has no competition for the No.13 jersey, with Damian de Allende and Andre Esterhuizen in an arm wrestle for the No.12 jersey. My choice is Esterhuizen – based on their 2023 form.

Flyhalf is easy. Even though Damian Willemse is listed as a No.10, I will use him as a utility off the bench. Manie Libbok is the obvious starting flyhalf.

Scrumhalf may also require some debate – with Faf de Klerk, Jaden Hendrikse, Cobus Reinach and Grant Williams all getting decent game time.

Based on the Rugby Championship and warm-up games, perhaps De Klerk and Reinach are just ahead in the pecking order. The experienced De Klerk will start in my team, based in his ability to execute the game plan under pressure. Is he flawless? NO!

My back-up will be Reinach – who can play in several backline positions – including wing.

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The loose forwards also select themselves. The World Cup-winning combination of Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi (as captain) MUST start.

Kwagga Smith and either Marco van Staden or Jasper Wiese will be on the bench.

I will start with Eben Etzebeth and Jean Kleyn at lock, although there is a very strong case to be made for RG Snyman.

I will have the latter on the bench, along with utility forward Franco Mostert – which means Van Staden and Wiese will be surplus to requirements. Smith will get my vote, as he can also cover some outside backline positions.

The starting front row is also easy – Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Frans Malherbe.

Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Vincent Koch will be my backups, but Trevor Nyakane will not let the team down either.

My ‘A-Team’ to face Scotland

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

@king365ed
@rugby365com

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