Springboks-Ireland World Cup showdown talked up

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.

Ireland team

Ireland named halfback Jamison Gibson-Park in their only change for the crunch Rugby World Cup Pool B clash with South Africa in Paris on Saturday as coach Andy Farrell selected an unchanged pack with a 5-3 split between forwards and backs on the bench.

The fixture is expected to decide who finishes top of the group and is also a meeting between the two top ranked teams in the world, with Ireland looking to hold onto their place at the summit, earned on the back of a superb run of 15 wins in a row.

“It is not a must-win, it is not a do-or-die game but it is pretty important to both teams, let’s put it that way,” Ireland coach Andy Farrell told reporters.

“It’s always nice to win but we have always looked at ourselves mainly in terms of performance.”

Johnny Sexton will lead the team from first five-eighth alongside Gibson-Park, who is the only change from the team that defeated Tonga 59-16 in their previous game.

Conor Murray drops to the bench as one of three backline options among the replacements along with flyhalf Jack Crowley and centre Robbie Henshaw.

South Africa’s decision to choose seven forwards on the bench was never likely to change Ireland’s plans but could be a factor in the final 20 minutes if they hold the physical edge and are able to produce greater speed at the breakdown.

“I think it’s great,” Farrell told reporters.

“They know what fits for them and so do we. I did pose the question to our forwards coaches as to whether we should go with seven backs and one forward, but they weren’t up for that!

“I am pretty confident in the five forwards we have got coming off the bench and the impact they’re going to have and the type of game we’re going to play when that happens.”

Hooker Dan Sheehen has recovered from injury to be named among the replacements for what will be his World Cup debut.

“Dan is obviously fit and raring to go and in fine condition. He’s a world-class hooker in my opinion and he gets his chance to get his tournament under way,” Farrell said.

Ireland beat South Africa 19-16 when the teams last met in Dublin in November and have won seven of the last 11 against the Springboks. Surprisingly this is their first World Cup meeting.

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