South Africa has chosen Handre Pollard to start at first five-eighth in the upcoming Rugby World Cup championship against the All Blacks, stacking their substitutes with a high-stakes 7-1 split of forwards.
Promoted from the reserve list, Pollard alongside halfback Faf de Klerk were the halves combination that played a crucial role in the Springboks’ final game victory four years prior.
A striking decision by Springboks leadership, Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber, was the splitting of the bench. They added lock Jean Kleyn and No. 8 Jasper Wiese, extending the “bomb squad” of seven reserve forwards, who will compete against a revitalized All Blacks squad in their first World Cup championship clash since 1995.
In a pre-Rugby World Cup warm-up game against New Zealand, South Africa trialed an at-the-time unparalleled 7-1 split, and triumphed with a record 35-7 over a 14-man All Blacks team.
The Springboks have confirmed that Hooker Bongi Mbonambi, despite an allegation of discriminatory remarks towards England’s Tom Curry during South Africa’s narrow 16-15 win in the semi-finals, will launch the line-up, having been cleared by World Rugby. A detailed investigation into Curry’s allegations against Mbonambi conceded that not enough evidence existed to institute disciplinary action.
Pollard, replacing Manie Libbok at No. 10 in the championship following his recovery from injury, was pivotal in the quarterfinal against France and semifinal contest versus England. Cobus Reinach concedes his position to the return of De Klerk.
South Africa retains four of their five forwards from the semifinal bench, with Trevor Nyakane replacing the injured Vincent Koch. The Springboks added Kleyn and Wiese, with Willie le Roux being the sole back in the reserves. In chasing consecutive titles, the prospect of backline injuries could present dangers for South Africa in Sunday’s game at Stade de France.
The victorious team will seize a record fourth Rugby World Cup title.
Turning from a 5-3 bench split to a 7-1 setup offers the best opportunity for success, according to Springboks coach Nienaber. He indicates there are tactics in place to manage potential injuries in the backline, saying, “we’re excited about our plan and we embrace the risk.” He also acknowledges the stakes are high, understanding every point and each inch will critically count in Saturday’s match.
The main lineup for South Africa includes: Steven Kitshoff, Mbongeni Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (c), Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Duane Vermeulen, Faf de Klerk, Handre Pollard, Cheslin Kolbe, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Kurt-Lee Arendse, and Damian Willemse.
Their replacements are Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Jean Kleyn, RG Snyman, Kwagga Smith, Jasper Wiese, and Willie Le Roux.