Two of the favourites for the tournament go head-to-head in Paris in what is set to be a brutally physical clash, with this fixture one that has attracted excitement ever since the World Cup draw was made.
Defending champions South Africa have been typically impressive so far in the tournament, seeing off Scotland before a much-changed Springboks side was still good enough to hammer minnows Romania. Only New Zealand have so far successfully defended a World Cup crown - there is every chance South Africa add their name to that list come October 28.
Ireland will have other ideas though as they look for their first title on the biggest stage, with Andy Farrell’s men the number-one ranked side in the world and so impressive over the last two years.
Whoever wins this match will almost certainly top a tough Pool B, though the reward for that is likely to be a quarter-final against the All Blacks.
Date, kick-off time and venue
South Africa vs Ireland takes place tonight, September 23, 2023, with kick-off scheduled for 8pm BST.
The game will take place at the Stade de France in Paris.
Where to watch South Africa vs Ireland
TV channel: In the UK, South Africa vs Ireland will be broadcast live and free to air on ITV1, with coverage starting at 7.15pm.
Live stream: Fans can also catch the action live online via the ITVX website and app.
Live blog: You can follow all the action via Standard Sport’s live match blog.
South Africa vs Ireland team news
Having rotated for the win over Romania, South Africa return to almost exactly the same side that beat Scotland in their tournament opener. The only change from that match is the absence of the injured Malcolm Marx, meaning Bongi Mbonambi lines up at hooker.
There had been concern over Eben Etzebeth’s fitness after he picked up a shoulder injury against Scotland, but he has recovered and starts, while inspirational captain Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit are among those also back in the side.
Cobus Reinach, who scored a hat-trick inside 25 minutes against Romania, is the only back named among the South Africa replacements, as head coach Jacques Nienaber opts for seven forwards in reserve.
Ireland, meanwhile, make only one change from the side that beat Tonga last time out, with Jamison Gibson-Park in at scrum-half ahead of Conor Murray.
Dan Sheehan is back from injury and takes a seat on the bench, with Ronan Kelleher starting at hooker. Finlay Bealham is also among the replacements after passing tests on a head injury, though the game comes too soon for Jack Conan.
Jack Crowley is preferred to Ross Byrne on the bench, while Rob Herring drops out altogether with Sheehan back.
South Africa vs Ireland lineups
South Africa XV: Willemse; Arendse, Kriel, De Allende, Kolbe; Libbok, De Klerk; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe; Etzebeth, Mostert; Kolisi (c), Du Toit, Wiese
Replacements: Fourie, Nche, Nyakane, Kleyn, Snyman, Van Staden, Smith, Reinach
Ireland XV: Keenan; Hansen, Ringrose, Aki, Lowe; Sexton (c), Gibson-Park; Porter, Kelleher, Furlong; Ryan, Beirne; O'Mahony, Van der Flier, Doris
Replacements: Sheehan, Bealham, Kilcoyne, Henderson, Baird, Murray, Crowley, Henshaw
South Africa vs Ireland referee
The referee for Saturday’s game is New Zealand’s Ben O’Keeffe.
South Africa vs Ireland prediction
The world champions against the best side in the world, if the rankings are to be believed.
South Africa’s bench is a fairly good indicator of what can be expected in Paris, with the Springboks naming seven forwards as substitutes for the first time in a World Cup match.
Ireland will not match that split and their forwards face a massive test against the ‘Bomb Squad’, with that battle, particularly in the second half as Irish legs tire, likely to have a decisive factor in the result. There is very much no Plan B for South Africa.
Andy Farrell’s side can take confidence from their win over the Springboks a year ago, though there is a sense that there is more pressure on them this time than their opponents. Defeat here would leave Ireland facing a fortnight build-up into a match against Scotland they would have to win to avoid an early exit, whereas South Africa already have a victory over the Scots in the bag.
It is a match that will likely be decided by the finest of margins - we’re going for the Springboks to power their way to a gruelling win.
South Africa to win by three points.
Head to head (h2h) history and results
The two nations met most recently at the end of last year, when Ireland won 19-16 in Dublin to edge a bruising encounter. In nine meetings since 2006, only twice has the winning margin been more than ten points - expect another tight match!
South Africa wins: 18
Ireland wins: 8
South Africa vs Ireland latest odds
South Africa to win: 5/6
Ireland to win: 11/10
Odds via Betfair (subject to change).