South Africa and Ireland, two of the favourites for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, meet in a huge Pool B clash at the Stade de France this Saturday.
The Springboks have raised eye-brows by opting for a seven-one split between forwards and backs on the bench as part of their so-called ‘bomb-squad’.
Head coach Jacque Nienbar deployed the high-risk strategy successfully in the side’s record 35-7 victory over New Zealand in a warm-up game last month, but this will be the first time it has been used in a World Cup match.
The gaze of both squads will be fixed on winning the tournament and a success for either here will likely ensure an easier quarter-final clash, although with likely Pool A qualifiers France and New Zealand lying in wait, the advantage will hardly be a big one.
When is it?
South Africa v Ireland takes place on Saturday, September 23, with the match kicking off at 8pm BST (9pm local time).
Where is it?
The Stade de France. This stadium was historically built for the 1998 Fifa World Cup and has been the national stadium for France ever since as well as the home for the country’s rugby team. Les Bleus first played here on February 7, 1998, when Philippe Bernat-Salles and the late Christophe Dominici both crossed the whitewash in a 24-17 defeat of England. It has a capacity of 80,023 which is why it has been the stomping ground for so many big matches, in total, the Stade de France has hosted 97 men’s test matches – including an RWC 1999 quarter-final and the France 2007 final.
Who is the referee?
Kiwi referee Ben O’Keefe will take charge of the match. The 2023 Rugby World Cup is O’Keefe’s second as an official after he took charge of three matches at the 2019 tournament.
How to watch on TV
ITV has exclusive broadcast rights to show the Rugby World Cup in the UK. This match is on ITV1.
Radio commentary will be available only on the BBC, across Radio 5 Live, 5 Sports Extra and the BBC Sounds service. The BBC says there will be a “bespoke output” in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
What is the latest team news?
Reigning champions South Africa have recalled their star names as part of 13 personnel changes.
Hooker Bongi Mbonambi and Damian Willemse, who switches from fly-half to full-back, are the only two starting players retained from Sunday’s 76-0 thrashing of Pool B minnows Romania.
Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has opted for a seven-one split of forwards and backs on a stacked bench for the Stade de France showdown.
His selection shows just one enforced alteration from the team which launched their title defence with an 18-3 win over Scotland on September 10, with Mbonambi continuing in place of Malcolm Marx, whose tournament was ended by a serious knee injury sustained in that game.
As expected, lock Eben Etzebeth has overcome a shoulder issue to take his place in a formidable XV captained by flanker Siya Kolisi.
Ulster prop Steven Kitshoff starts, while Jean Kleyn, who represented Ireland at the last World Cup, and fellow Munster lock RG Snyman are among the replacements.
South Africa XV: 15. Damien Willemse, 14. Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13. Jesse Kriel, 12. Damien De Allende, 11. Cheslin Kolbe, 10. Manie Libbok, 9. Faf De Klerk, 1. Steven Kitshoff, 2. Mbongeni Mbonambi, 3. Frans Malherbe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Franco Mostert, 6. Siya Kolisi, 7. Pieter-Steph Du Toit 8. Jasper Wieser
Replacements: 16. D Fourie, 17. O Nche, 18. T Nyakane, 19. J Kleyn, 20. RG Snyman, 21. M van Staden, 23. K Smith, 24. C Reinach.
How do I get tickets?
To find out if tickets are still available, click through to the tournament’s official ticketing website.
What are they saying?
Caelan Doris admits to initially being shocked by the sheer size of the South Africa team but insists facing the fearsome might of the so-called ‘Bomb Squad’ will not significantly alter Ireland’s game plan.
Asked what distinguishes South Africa from other sides, Doris replied: “Physicality is the word that comes to mind.
“I remember being shocked at just the sheer size of them, playing them in November.
“They kind of do a six-two or even seven-one sometimes off the bench and have massive reinforcements coming off the bench as well.
“But it’s definitely not the only string to their bow. They’ve got a lot of pace in their backs and their forwards are capable of keeping the ball alive and offloading.
“Obviously the physicality is tied into their set-piece, they’ve got a great maul, great lineout options as well, a very strong lineout and scrum as well, so getting those areas right is going to be big.”
What is the recent history between the teams?
Since 2010, Ireland and South Africa have faced each other eight times with each team winning four matches apiece.
Ireland have won the last two meetings – in 2022 and 2017, both of which were held in Dublin. South Africa were the winners of the two prior clashes.
South Africa lead the overall head-to-head between the two nations 18-9.
What are their pool matches and results?
Saturday, September 9: Ireland 82 Romania 8, Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux
Saturday, September 16: Ireland 59 Tonga 16, Stade de la Beaujoire (Nantes)
Saturday, 23 September: Ireland v South Africa, Stade de France (Paris)
Saturday, October 7: Ireland v Scotland, Stade de France (Paris)
Sunday, September 10: South Africa 18 Scotland 3, Stade Vélodrome (Marseille)
Sunday, September 17: South Africa 76 Romania 0, Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux
Saturday, September 23: South Africa v Ireland, Stade de France (Paris)
Sunday October 1: South Africa v Tonga, Stade Vélodrome (Marseille)
What are the latest odds?
South Africa to win: 4/5
Ireland to win: 5/4