Subscriber OnlyRugby World CupPlayer Profiles

Ireland v South Africa: Springboks team profiles for the big World Cup Pool B game in Paris

John O’Sullivan looks at Jacques Nienaber’s starting 15 and Bomb Squad bench for Saturday’s at the Stade de France

15 Damian Willemse

He’s played in 17 of the Springboks’ 18 Test matches up to the World Cup and the only player to start both matches in the tournament. He can play fullback or outhalf, is strong, quick and nimble for a bigger man.

14 Kurt Lee-Arendse

The Paarl-born speedster came from Sevens to make quite the impression in Test rugby with his pace, footwork and eye for a gap, and which saw him become the fastest ever Springbok to 10 tries, in just eight matches. He is robust in contact despite his size.

13 Jesse Kriel

He is the orchestrator of South Africa’s outside defensive alignment, and as befits someone who has played Test matches on the wing, is quick. His ability to read the game and his coolness under pressure mark him as a key player.

12 Damian de Allende

The former Munster centre, now playing in Japan, has been an ever present in the Springbok team for about the past six seasons since the retirement of Jean de Villiers. He is powerful, direct and a formidable presence on the other side of the ball.

11 Cheslin Kolbe

A try scorer in the World Cup final four years ago in Japan when the Springboks beat England, it was a typically mesmerising finish from a virtuoso performer whose ability to beat players is an inspiration for players of smaller stature. A superstar in the sport.

10 Manie Libbok

He made his debut against France last November and has since held on to the jersey in the absence of the injured Handre Pollard, and on the latter’s return. Place-kicking can be wobbly, but his all-round game isn’t and he’s a running threat to boot.

9 Faf de Klerk

He made his debut against Ireland in 2016 but it wasn’t until 2018 that he established himself as first choice. Another World Cup winner playing in France, he is a typical scrumhalf on the pitch, mischievous, annoying and gobby, but a brilliant player.

1 Steven Kitshoff

Earned the nickname Spicy Plum from Xhosa match commentary, the red-haired loosehead prop will join Ulster at the end of the tournament. An excellent set-piece specialist with a very good work-rate as a carrier and defender.

2 Bongi Mbonambi

Renowned for his hard-driving, hard-tackling style of play, he gets the starting role due to the injury to Malcolm Marx. He has an all-action, challenging style of play and a healthy appetite for scoring tries off the back of the powerful Bok driving maul.

3 Frans Malherbe

He is rated as one of the best tightheads in the world, but possesses a down-to-earth, undemonstrative manner that occasionally sees his qualities overlooked but not by his team-mates. Fearsome in the scrum.

4 Eben Etzebeth

He could be a Bond villain but instead he’s a Test centurion, World Cup winner, Lions series winner, and one of the most intense, aggressive forwards in the world game and a huge player in every sense for the Springboks.

5 Franco Mostert

He has become a regular fixture since Lood de Jaeger’s injury, based on a voracious work ethic and an athleticism that also allows him to play at blindside flanker. He adds value on both sides of the ball.

6 Siya Kolisi

World Cup and Lions series-winning captain, his rise from an impoverished childhood to the inspirational person and player he is represents a remarkable story. A tough defender, robust at the breakdown and some tackle-busting ball carrying.

7 Pieter Steph du Toit

Three-time South Africa Player of the Year (2016, 2018, 2019), World Player of the Year (2019), he is probably the tallest openside (six foot, six inches) in world rugby and certainly one of the best. A brilliant athlete, who is never far from the epicentre of the action.

8 Jasper Wiese

A standout performer for the Leicester Tigers in the English Premiership, tacklers need to get a proper shot, or they won’t stop him, and he is particularly effective from close range.


The Bomb Squad have gone nuclear, seven forwards and just a single back Cobus Reinach, who can play both scrumhalf and wing. Included is Jean Kleyn who played for Ireland at the World Cup in Japan four years ago.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer