Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies five Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the defending champions’ World Cup opener against Scotland in Marseille on Sunday.
As the only World Cup rookie in the pack, Wiese promises to be more energetic, intense and physical than ever. That’s a scary thought. The key, though, will be for him to control the emotions and aggression and not get carried away.
For as impactful as a bruising battering ram as he is, he’s had soft moments and this will be a vital examination of his temperament and rugby IQ.
Faf de Klerk
De Klerk will be the man of the hour in Marseille as he reaches the 50-Test milestone. The blonde-haired scrumhalf debuted as an attack-minded 24-year-old in the 26-20 loss to Ireland at Newlands back in 2016 and transformed into the tactical driver of the men in green and gold.
It speaks to the dedication of De Klerk, who scored the first of his five Test tries to help the Boks edge England 42-39 at his beloved Ellis Park in 2018, how he was able to go from the attacking livewire he was at the Lions to the pinpoint box kicking general in the Bok set-up.
The Waterkloof product has come a long way from his early days at the Pumas to one of the most popular stars in world rugby and while youngsters like Jaden Hendrikse and Grant Williams have come along, he remains the frontline No 9 and has even more responsibility on his shoulders in this World Cup than he did in 2019 as he eases some of the pressure off his inexperienced halfback partner.
Libbok is a confidence player and the Boks’ final warm-up game against the All Blacks at Twickenham was the best possible dress rehearsal for him going into his World Cup debut.
In front of 82,000, he faced the Haka for the first time and was sure-footed from the start. Where he’d previously been a mixed bag, he put it all together in the record 35-7 win, slotting all of his kicks at goal on top of delivering the deft touches he’s known for on attack.
He’ll look to channel that energy on the biggest stage of them all on Sunday.
Damian de Allende
Andre Esterhuizen has been in such red-hot form that plenty of experts and fans alike called for him to start against the Scots. Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have instead stuck with De Allende, who hasn’t been at his best this season but has vast experience.
The Bok coaches know what they have in their go-to inside centre, but because of the hype around “The Agent of Chaos”, De Allende will be closely watched by fans who’ll be quick to criticize the veteran if he slips up or has a quiet evening.
One of the standout players of the triumphant 2019 campaign, De Allende will aim to return to those heights and that road starts against Scotland. Finn Russell, you’re in for a long night.
Similarly, Bok fans have been buzzing about Canan Moodie’s magnificent first start at No 13 against the All Blacks and left wanting more. However, the prodigy will play no part on Sunday due to a hamstring injury.
To be fair, Kriel had one of his best games in the green in gold against Wales last time out, allaying worries over Lukhanyo Am’s injury-enforced absence with a cracking complete performance that included a brace of tries and was always going to be the man to step into the role.
It’s vital for the Boks’ campaign as a whole that he and De Allende find synergy as a combination straight out of the shoot.
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 (captain), 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.