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Bok greats pick best XV to face Ireland with 8 changes from Wales win

By Josh Raisey
Andre Esterhuizen, Evan Roos and Grant Williams of South Africa prior to the Summer Rugby International match between South Africa and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on June 22, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Gaspafotos/MB Media/Getty Images)

South Africa got their 2024 underway with a 41-13 win over a depleted Wales at Twickenham on Saturday, but it was not a match where they were at their dominant best.


The contest served as the perfect opportunity for the world champions to gel in their first match since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in October and prepare for a much sterner test against Ireland in July.

The Springboks will host the world number twos and reigning Six Nations champions in Pretoria and Durban in one of the most eagerly anticipated series in a long time.

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Rassie Erasmus gives an injury update

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Rassie Erasmus gives an injury update

World Cup winners Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger joined Hanyani Shimange on the latest episode of RugbyPass TV’s The Boks Office podcast to dissect the victory over Warren Gatland’s side and look ahead to the visit from Ireland.

Rassie Erasmus fielded a fairly experimental side in London, particularly in the back line, and de Villiers and Burger discussed which players will remain in the starting XV for the first Test at Loftus Versfeld on July 6.

South Africa
27 - 20
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The pair expect eight changes from the side that were victorious at Twickenham, five of which are in the back line.

The two players to keep hold of their position among the backs are scrum-half Faf de Klerk and outside centre Jesse Kriel, with de Villiers saying “to make it easier for you, the back line is the World Cup final back line.”


The area of contention was at inside centre, where the pair just favoured Damian de Allende over Andre Esterhuizen.

“It’s a toss-up between [Esterhuizen] and Damian,” Burger said. “We’ve always seen when it’s between these two, we go for Damian.”

De Villiers added: “Andre Esterhuizen’s opportunities were so limited on Saturday, what do you base it on? Damian has done nothing wrong, he brought great energy when he came on, he’s a World Cup winner, you stick with that.”

In the pack, Shimange picked the front row, predicting two changes, with Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe starting ahead of Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch, with Ox Nche retaining the No1 jersey. He would deploy Marx, Thomas du Toit and Kock from the bench though, with Burger pointing out “it’s irrelevant nowadays who starts because they only play 40 minutes.”


The real debate came when choosing who should start at No8, with de Villiers suggesting Kwagga Smith should shift from the flank to the back of the scrum. Burger was less convinced though, and leaned towards retaining Evan Roos at No8, highlighting Smith’s impact from the bench at altitude.

“Kwagga is never going to disappoint you whenever he starts or comes off the bench,” the former flanker said.

“But I think against Ireland at Highveld, he can be destructive coming off the bench. Especially if they’re chasing the game, we’ve seen him do it in the past, he is a machine. No8 is the one I’m not too sure of.”

De Villiers replied: “I think Evan can do that off the bench as well.”

With less than a week before the squad is named, we wait to see how much Erasmus’ team will differ from this one.

South Africa XV versus Wales
15. Aphelele Fassi
14. Edwill van der Merwe
13. Jesse Kriel
12. Andre Esterhuizen
11. Makazole Mapimpi
10. Jordan Hendrikse
9. Faf de Klerk
1. Ox Nche
2. Malcolm Marx
3. Vincent Koch
4. Eben Etzebeth
5. Franco Mostert
6. Kwagga Smith
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit
8. Evan Roos

The Boks Office’s South Africa XV versus Ireland
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
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit
8. Kwagga Smith (de Villiers) Evan Roos (Burger)



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1 Comment
Rodney 21 days ago

It will be great too watch rugby again

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finn 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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