Head coach Jacques Nienaber hailed the skill and versatility of the much-changed Springbok 23 to face Romania on Sunday.
Nienaber named all four scrumhalves in the Bok squad in the team for this weekend’s clash in Bordeaux, headlined by Grant Williams starting on the right wing, while Faf de Klerk will provide flyhalf cover from the bench.
Damian Willemse, who started last week’s 18-3 win over Scotland at Stade Velodrome, switches from fullback to flyhalf as Canan Moodie resumes his midfield partnership with Andre Esterhuizen, while Jean Kleyn partners Marvin Orie in the second row.
“People were surprised when we picked four scrumhalves in the squad but we knew they offered us the skills and versatility to provide backline options to manage the challenges that tournament rugby gives you,” said Nienaber.
“They are all excellent scrumhalves, but Grant and Cobus [Reinach] can play wing and Faf has experience at No 10 – as do Cheslin [Kolbe] and Willie [le Roux]. We have the same versatility among our forwards.
“Grant played school rugby on the wing, and he has come on at wing before for us, so we are excited to give him this opportunity to start there and for him to gain international experience in the position.
“Faf is also one of our back-up flyhalves in the squad, and the same applies to him, as it will be valuable for him and the team to get some game time in the position.
“We have been rotating and testing players in different positions since last season to put us in the fortunate position to have a group of 33 players in France that are closely matched in terms of their quality of play and skills, and who have been pushing one another for places in the last few months. It has allowed us to select a top-quality team for this match.”
Nienaber also named a quality forward pack while veteran flanker Deon Fourie will serve as the back-up hooker on the bench, alongside the formidable and experienced Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman and Jasper Wiese.
“This squad includes several World Cup winners and some of the best young talent in the country and we are excited to see what they can do,” the coach added.
“Player management is vital as every game in the World Cup is essentially a playoff game, and it is important that our squad remains sharp and match fit throughout the competition.”
On the Romanian challenge, Nienaber expected the minnows to show real fight at Stade de Bordeaux: “Romania are a patriotic team and they will be playing for their country.
“It is a massive opportunity for them to play against us because such occasions are very rare, so they will give everything.
“They scored the first try in their opening match against Ireland, they showed real skill in a number of areas of their game, and they fought throughout the match, so we know what we are in for.
“Obviously from our perspective it is important to build momentum in our campaign and this match plays a vital role in our plans for the tournament, so it is important that we follow through with our plan in this match.”