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Faf de Klerk hits 50 for Springboks while Damian Willemse gets the nod for Scotland clash

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Faf de Klerk will earn his 50th cap for the Springboks having been named in the starting line-up to face Scotland in their Rugby World Cup opener on Sunday.

De Klerk will partner Manie Libbok at half-back in a strong South Africa team for their first match in the ‘pool of death.’

They will be looking to get off to a quick start against the Scots in a group which also contains Tonga and world number one side Ireland.

Interesting call at full-back

Head coach Jacques Nienaber has gone for the fleet-footed Damian Willemse at full-back over the decision-making qualities of Willie le Roux, who is on the bench.

Elsewhere in the backline, it is as expected with wings Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe being rewarded for their good form in the warm-ups, edging out Makazole Mapimpi.

At centre, Andre Esterhuizen impressed in the 35-7 victory over New Zealand, but Nienaber goes for the greater experience of Damian de Allende.

Jesse Kriel joins him in the midfield with Canan Moodie, who also shone against the All Blacks, unavailable due to a minor hamstring injury.

“Earning 50 Test caps is a massive achievement and to mark that feat in the opening game of the Rugby World Cup makes it very special,” Nienaber said.

“Faf has been a key member of our team for a few years, so we are delighted for him. Needless to say, we’re all focused on making sure it’s a memorable occasion for him and the rest of us.”

Up front, the Springboks have gone for the majority of the starting pack which took New Zealand to the cleaners. The only alteration sees Jasper Wiese start at number eight with Duane Vermeulen moving to the bench.

Five of the replacements who featured against the All Blacks are also involved for the Scotland encounter as Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman and Marco van Staden are selected in the 23.

Back to a 6-2

They have reverted back to a 6-2 split from the 7-1 they employed at Twickenham with Le Roux, whose late withdrawal two weeks ago forced that change, fit enough to be involved in Marseille.

“We are pleased with the squad depth we have built in the last few months, and we believe this group of players strikes the right balance to achieve the result we need against Scotland,” Nienaber added.

“We are very excited about this occasion. We’ve been building for this World Cup for the last four years and we are thrilled to get our campaign started.

“We’ve been working hard in the last few weeks to make sure we are as prepared as possible going into this match and we are fully aware of the challenge that awaits us.

“Scotland are a quality team with a strong pack and skilful backs, and they play with a lot of intensity, so we need to be sharp on attack and defence on Sunday.

“They have proved in the last few seasons that they can beat any team, and with this being the opening game of the World Cup for both sides, they will be equally as charged up as us for the match.”

The team

South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Duane Vermeulen, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Willie le Roux

Date: Sunday, September 10
Venue: Stade de Marseille
Kick-off: 17:45 local (16:45 BST, 15:45 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

READ MORE: Jordie Barrett ruled out as All Blacks name side for Rugby World Cup opener against France

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