Exciting young wing Sbu Nkosi has been drafted into the Springbok starting line-up for Sunday’s gripping Rugby World Cup semi-final against Wales at the Yokohama International Stadium (kick-off 18h00 local time, 11h00 SA time).
Nkosi replaces the hot-stepping Cheslin Kolbe who has not recovered sufficiently from the ankle injury he suffered against Canada and aggravated in the quarter-final victory over Japan (26-3) in Tokyo on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Nkosi – who has scored eight tries in his 10 Test appearances – slots into the right wing position as a direct replacement for Kolbe.
“It’s disappointing not to have Cheslin available as he has been brilliant for us since we first called him up last year,” said Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby.
“But we really rate Sbu and he will slot straight in. I am as excited to see what he can do as I would be if ‘Chessie’ were playing. Sbu has been very close to selection as it is.”
Nkosi has made two appearances in the tournament, against Namibia and a try-scoring show against Canada – on the left wing – to follow up try-scoring appearances against Australia and Argentina (two tries) in the two South African home Tests in 2019.
His injury-enforced inclusion is the only change to the 23 that had been entrusted to ensure second place in the pool (against Italy) and to secure a semi-final place (against Japan).
“We’ve been fortunate to have been able to be pretty consistent in selection and we’ve built some nice momentum,” said Erasmus. “But the challenge just got a lot tougher on Sunday.
“Wales are the reigning Six Nations champions – as well as Grand Slam winners – and apart from three defeats in their Rugby World Cup warm-ups have put together a really good sequence of results.
“But we’ve also found some rhythm and we’ll be ready for the challenge.”
The Springbok 23 includes 10 players who appeared in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final victory over Wales four years ago in England (23-19), and nine who are making a second semi-final appearance after losing to eventual champions, New Zealand, four years ago.
The nine are Tendai Mtawarira, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Francois Louw, Duane Vermeulen, Handré Pollard, Damian de Allende and Willie le Roux. Pieter-Steph du Toit was on the bench in the quarter-final at Twickenham in 2015.
“We have been working hard for 18 months to put ourselves in a position to win the Rugby World Cup and that opportunity is now just 80 minutes away,” said Erasmus.
“These players have worked with unbelievable energy to get Springbok rugby back into this position and I know they will leave nothing out on the field on Sunday.
“We can feel the excitement coming from back home in South Africa and how much success will mean to our country. We know we’re playing for South Africa; that this is bigger than an 80-minute game of rugby.”
The winner will play the victor of the England v New Zealand semi-final in Yokohama on Saturday, 2 November.
South Africa’s semi-final with Wales kicks off at 11h00 (SA time) and is available on SuperSport channel 201 and SABC radio.
The Springbok team to play Wales in Yokohama on Sunday is:
15. Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz, Japan), 59 caps - 60 points (12 tries)
14. Sbu Nkosi (Cell C Sharks), 10 - 40 (8t)
13. Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks), 13 - 15 (3t)
12. Damian de Allende (DHL Stormers), 45 - 25 (5t)
11. Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks), 12 - 65 (13t)
10. Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls), 46 - 421 (6t, 71c, 79p, 4d)
9. Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England), 28 - 20 (4t)
8. Duane Vermeulen (Vodacom Bulls), 52 - 15 (3t)
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), 53 - 25 (5t)
6. Siya Kolisi (captain, DHL Stormers), 48 - 30 (6t)
5. Lood de Jager (Vodacom Bulls) 43 - 25 (5t)
4. Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), 83 - 15 (3t)
3. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), 36 - 5 (1t)
2. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers), 34 - 35 (7t)
1. Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), 115 - 10 (2t)
16. Malcolm Marx (Emirates Lions), 31 - 25 (5t)
17. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), 45 - 5 (1t)
18. Vincent Koch (Saracens, England) 19 - 0
19. RG Snyman (Vodacom Bulls), 21 - 5 (1t)
20. Franco Mostert (Gloucester, England), 37 - 5 (1t)
21. Francois Louw (Bath, England), 74 - 50 (10t)
22. Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers), 9 - 20 (4t)
23. Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France), 65 - 141 (11t, 7c, 21p, 3d)
Wales and South Africa have played 35 Test matches since 1906 of which 21 were played in Wales, 10 in South Africa and 4 on neutral ground. Of the 35 Tests South Africa have won 28, lost 6 with one Test drawn for a win percentage of 80%.
Two of those Tests were played at Rugby World Cups: In 2011 South Africa won the Pool match in Wellington by the narrowest of margins by 17-16; in 2015 Wales and South Africa met in the quarter-final match at Twickenham for another close encounter, won by the Springboks, 23-19.
Wales have competed in all RWC tournaments since 1987. To date the Welsh record is as follows: Played 42; Won 26; Lost 16; Points for 1 205; Points against 806; Win % 62.
South Africa’s first RWC tournament was in 1995 and the Springbok record to date is as follows: Played 41; Won 35; Lost 6; Points for 1 461; Points against 515; Win % 85.
TEAM MATCH RECORDS AGAINST WALES
• Most points – 96
• Most tries – 15
• Most conversions – 9
• Most penalty goals – 5 (On 4 occasions)
• Most drop goals – 1 (On three occasions)
INDIVIDUAL MATCH RECORDS AGAINST WALES
• Most points – 31 – Percy Montgomery.
• Most tries – 3 – Joost van der Westhuizen and Pieter Rossouw.
• Most conversions – 9 – Percy Montgomery.
• Most penalty goals – 5 – Butch James, Morné Steyn and Handré Pollard.
• Most drop goals – 1 – Hansie Brewis, Lionel Wilson and Handré Pollard.
• The total test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 677.
• There are 213 caps in the backline with 464 caps among the forwards. On the bench there are a further 301 caps.
• The average caps per player in the backline is 30, the forwards 58 while the players on the bench average 38.
• The average age of the starting fifteen is 28.
• Handré Pollard needs two tries to equal the career record of eight tries as a flyhalf held by Morné Steyn. He also needs three penalty goals to equal Percy Montgomery’s 10 career penalty goals against Wales. Furthermore, he needs one drop goal to become the sole record holder for most career drop goals against Wales. Currently, he shares the record with Hansie Brewis and Lionel Wilson.
The referee is Jérôme Garcès of France. This will be his 15th Test match as a referee with South Africa involved and his 57th Test match in his career.
The Assistant referees are Wayne Barnes of England and Ben O’Keeffe of New Zealand while
Ben Skeen, also from New Zealand, will be the TMO.