How the Springboks could line up against New Zealand

How the Springboks could line up against New Zealand

The Rugby World Cup officially kicks off on Friday with hosts Japan facing off against Russia as Jamie Joseph looks to get a win in their opening game, a feat England managed in 2015 against Fiji.

However, the second day of the Rugby World Cup will see the reigning champions, New Zealand kick off their title defence in one of the most highly anticipated Pool stage matches against South Africa.

The clash will be the 99th test between the two sides and judging by recent results, and the fact that these two sides have faced off four times in Rugby World Cups with each side winning 2, this will be some encounter.

Rassie Erasmus will show his hand first by announcing his squad on Wednesday with Steve Hansen naming his side almost 24 hours later.

With that in mind, we have a crack at predicting how the Springboks will line up.

Front Row: Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe

Erasmus has recently used his front rows in combinations with Kitshoff, Marx and Malherbe starting together with Mtawarira, Mbonambi and Nykane coming off the bench or vice-versa.

While the trio of Mtawarira, Mbonambi and Nyakane has impressed recently, Nyakane's fitness has come under the spotlight and Erasmus is likely to stick with the trio that start against New Zealand in Wellington earlier this year.

The trio will likely start from the bench and if Nyakane misses out, Saracens' prop Vincent Koch is likely to fill in.

Second row: Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert

Etzebeth will be penned in to start against New Zealand having started just about every test against New Zealand since his debut. Mostert is likely to join him in the second row unless Erasmus decides to throw in a shock and select Lood de Jager or RG Snyman with the latter likely to start via the bench.

Back row: Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen

Kwagga Smith started the test in Wellington earlier this year but with Siya Kolisi back to full fitness he will captain the side on the side of the scrum with the freakishly good Pieter-Steph du Toit at blindside and Duane Vermeulen completing the pack.

Unfortunately for Smith, he is set to miss out completely with Francois Louw taking the #20 jersey covering all three back row slots.

Halfback: Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard

The go-to starters for the Springboks at 9 & 10 and it's unlikely to change for the Rugby World Cup opener. Erasmus might tweak with his reserve halfbacks but Herschell Jantjies is still the second choice 9 ahead of Cobus Reinach.

Francois Steyn is also set to keep Elton Jantjies away from the 22 jersey with Erasmus admitting late last year that he does prefer his flyhalves playing a full 80 minutes.

Steyn will cover 10,12 and 15 from the bench and will likely come on at inside centre.

Centres: Damian de Allende, Lukhanyo Am

De Allende and Am seem to have combined well over the past few test matches for the Springboks and are set to continue in that fashion in the first Rugby World Cup match.

Jesse Kriel has been pushing Am hard for a starting role but his ability to cover centre, wing and potentially fullback makes him a key impact player for the Boks.

Outside Backs: Makazole Mapimpi, Cheslin Kolbe, Willie Le Roux

Sbu Nkosi has been in stellar form of late, however, both Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi have been too and are likely to hold onto their starting roles.

Nkosi is likely to miss out completely as he and Kolbe continue to battle for the #14 jersey.

Willie Le Roux is also set to continue at fullback with Warrick Gelant set to feature in the smaller tests.

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