Springboks ready for huge Ireland clash, back bench revolution

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - South Africa Training - Loftus stadium, Pretoria, South Africa - July 25, 2023 South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber and Siya Kolisi during training REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) – South Africa’s Rugby World Cup Pool B clash with world number one side Ireland in Paris on Saturday is as big as it gets according to captain Siya Kolisi, while coach Jacques Nienaber knew their 7-1 bench “innovation” would get a negative response.

Ireland are on a run of 15 straight victories and beat the Springboks 19-16 when they met in Dublin in November, with this battle likely to decide the top team in the group in France.

“We took a lot from the last match we played against them,” Kolisi told reporters on Thursday. “And both teams are playing well, so this is a good time to face them.

“We want to play nice, competitive rugby and I believe the match will be tough and played in a good spirit. This is as big as it gets.”

The breakdown battle and discipline are two areas Kolisi and Nienaber believe will go a long way to deciding the outcome of the contest.

“The breakdowns are going to be big. They have a lot of players who are effective in that department and I think that will have a big influence on the game,” the Bok skipper said.

Nienaber added: “If you concede penalties against a team like Ireland they’ll either get territory or points, so they’ll put us under pressure. We must be disciplined to get the right result.”

The Boks raised eyebrows when they selected seven forwards on the bench, which has promoted an outcry from some pundits as being against the spirit of the game.

It is an attempt to make the Boks effective in the forwards, especially at the breakdown and with quick ruck ball, for the full 80 minutes.

“Innovation in any sport will trigger a reaction,” Nienaber said. “This is the first time it’s been done in rugby and that will come with a positive and negative reaction, but nothing is stopping other teams from doing it.

“It would be a sad day if innovation is stopped, especially when it is within the laws.”

Both teams were comfortable winners in their opening two games in the pool and are expected to advance to the quarter-finals, where they will likely face hosts France or New Zealand in a stacked side of the draw.

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