South Africa vs Namibia 2019: Springboks trial an experimental back row while neighbours Namibia exercise damage limitation for the all-Africa encounter at City of Toyota Stadium on Saturday.
TOYOTA, 27 Sep – A preview of the Pool B match between South Africa and Namibia, which kicks off at 18:45 on Saturday at the City of Toyota Stadium.
The big picture
The Springboks endured a long buildup to their ultimately disappointing clash with world champions New Zealand. Now they will expect nothing less than a heartening bonus-point win against Namibia.
The precedents bode well. South Africa amassed 192 points to 13 in the teams’ two previous encounters. But in last week’s defeat by Italy the Welwitschias showed a potency in attack that could trouble the two-time World Cup winners.
The Springboks face Italy and Canada in quick succession after Namibia, and coach Rassie Erasmus has made 13 changes to the side that lost to the All Blacks. Those include the surprise selection of hooker Schalk Brits at number eight.
The 38-year-old starts in a dynamic but relatively lightweight back row alongside Francois Louw and former sevens star Kwagga Smith.
“To have 31 guys here for what will hopefully be an eight-week tournament for us, you have to try and rotate your hookers. This gives us an ideal opportunity to rest guys who are vital for us in the big, big games,” said Erasmus.
“We don’t feel we will need so many lineout options. If we struggle, we can bring Franco Mostert off the bench. I think we will need speed all over the park, and this loose trio will give us that.”
The Springboks can afford to mix and match. But Namibia, who also make 10 changes to their starting XV, have their eyes on damage limitation.
“We had a rotation system which we’ve used since the last World Cup,” said coach Phil Davies. “We’ve picked a squad to start the game as well as we can and finish the game as well as we can.
“We’ve gone for a six-two split on the bench to have an extra forward. It’s a squad full of energy, ready to play one of the best teams in the world.”
Namibia’s youthful World Cup squad includes university students, a full-time banker, a brewery engineer and a qualified dentist. For a team that includes so many part-time players, the Springboks are a daunting prospect.
“South Africa have a lot of player depth and their A or B team is always dangerous,” said Namibia scrum coach Jaco Engels. “You can never underestimate them.”
Form guide (most recent match first)
South Africa: LWWDW
Head to head
Played 2 – South Africa 2W – Namibia 0W
In the spotlight
Schalk Brits is enjoying an unexpected Indian summer at the tail end of a glittering career.
Brits made his test debut in 2008. But he became a stalwart at Premiership side Saracens between 2009 and 2018, and so was largely not eligible for Springboks selection.
Consequently, he will now earn only his 14th cap in his first World Cup start. He came on as a replacement in two matches at RWC 2015.
At 38, the forward becomes the second-oldest Springbok to appear at a World Cup, behind Victor Matfield (RWC 2015). “He is experienced and a calming factor for the fringe players,” Erasmus said. “Hopefully that will come through versus Namibia.”
Namibia coach Davies is not entirely surprised to see Brits fielded in the unfamiliar number eight spot. “He can play anywhere,” Davies said. “He could even play fly-half.”
Herschel Jantjies and Elton Jantjies (no relation) make up a new half-back combination. Influential fly-half Handre Pollard will be rested.
Prop Thomas du Toit, who was called up as an injury replacement for Trevor Nyakane, is on the bench, along with ample firepower in Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and the electric Cheslin Kolbe, main picture.
Centre Jesse Kriel has a hamstring injury but is expected to be fit for the remaining Pool B matches against Italy and Canada.
For Namibia, tour captain and dynamic centre Johan Deysel has shaken off a shoulder injury to make the bench. Peter John Walters is the only uncapped player selected in Namibia’s World Cup squad. He starts at inside-centre, having earned his first cap off the bench last week against Italy.
Elsewhere, it is almost all change from the team that played Italy, below. Only second-row Tjiuee Uanivi, fly-half Cliven Loubser, full-back Johan Tromp and try-scoring winger Chad Plato retaining their positions. JC Greyling switches from wing to outside centre. Uanivi continues as captain.
Stats and trivia
Both previous clashes between these teams resulted in heavy wins for the Springboks. A 2007 World Cup warm-up match ended 105-13, and the pool encounter at Rugby World Cup 2011 finished 87-0. Across those two matches, South Africa clocked up 27 tries to Namibia’s one (scored by Bradley Langenhoven).
Namibia’s replacement prop Johan ‘Aranos’ Coetzee plays in South Africa for Pro14 franchise Cheetahs, while Loubser has had spells in the academies of both the Bulls and Sharks Super Rugby clubs across the border.
Kwagga Smith was born Albertus Stephanus Smith. Kwagga is a nickname given to him by his brother and refers to the quagga, Afrikaans for an extinct sub-species of zebra.
“Namibia are a little bit of an unknown factor for us. It’s one of those games where if you fall into the trap of playing like they want to play, then it can be a fun game for them and a messy one for us. We will have to be clinical and force our style upon them.” – Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus
“You’re not going to go through the Bokke, you have to play them with pace. You have to move them around. You can’t get into an arm wrestle with them otherwise you’re going to get hammered.” – Namibia scrum coach Jaco Engels