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South Africa vs Ireland: Rassie Erasmus Names 12 World Cup Final Starters for First Test

Rugby, South Africa, Ireland, Rassie Erasmus, Rugby World Cup, Loftus Stadium, Handre Pollard, Siya Kolisi, Sky Sports, Rugby Test Match

Head coach Rassie Erasmus has included a strong contingent from the team that beat New Zealand in last year’s Rugby World Cup final for the first Test against Ireland at Loftus Stadium. The match will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Action today, July 6, with a 4pm kick-off.

Erasmus has named 12 starters from the 2023 Rugby World Cup final in South Africa’s team to play Ireland in the first of two highly anticipated home Tests. Only full-back Willie le Roux, No. 8 Kwagga Smith, and prop Ox Nche did not start the 12-11 victory over New Zealand in Paris last October, although they all came on as replacements.

Handre Pollard returns to fly-half after missing the Springboks’ 41-13 victory over Wales in London last month, along with several other first-choice players who sat out that fixture as it fell outside the international window. “This is the team we believe will give us the impetus we need against Ireland, who are the second-highest ranked team in the world,” Erasmus said.

“We are blessed to have a lot of depth in our squad, and we are in a fortunate position to have several Rugby World Cup winners in our ranks who know what it takes to perform at the highest level. The fact that most of these guys have played together is a bonus for us, and most of them have faced Ireland before, so they are well aware of the challenge that lies ahead, especially since we haven’t beaten them since 2016.”

Only three of the Springboks’ match-day squad against Ireland were not involved in their World Cup triumph in France: prop Gerhard Steenekamp, lock Salmaan Moerat, and utility back Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu. Erasmus has opted for a 6-2 split between forwards and backs on the bench, aided by the versatility of Feinberg-Mngomezulu, who can cover fly-half, centre, and full-back, and Grant Williams, who is usually a scrum-half but can also play on the wing.

Ireland have never won a Test series in South Africa but were the only team to beat the Springboks at last year’s World Cup, triumphing 13-8 in Paris before losing to New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

“South Africa are coming fresh off a victory against the Welsh where a lot of their best players weren’t involved, but we now see Captain Courageous, Siya Kolisi, coming back in, leading a very experienced side,” former South Africa winger Bryan Habana told Sky Sports News.

“They’re coming up against an Irish side with no Johnny Sexton, but that being said, Peter O’Mahony and his charges have been vocal about the effort to want to come down to South Africa and make sure they put to bed the history of having never won a series in South Africa.

“It’s a Test match of two of the best teams in the world wanting to vie for the spot of who is the best.”

South Africa Squad:

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk; 1 Ox Nche, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 3 Frans Malherbe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8 Kwagga Smith.

Replacements:

16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 RG Snyman, 21 Marco van Staden, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu.

Watch Ireland against South Africa live today from 3:30 pm on Sky Sports Action (4 pm kick-off).

Credit: Sky Sports

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