The Springboks face Japan in the opening match of their Rugby World Cup campaign on Saturday in Brighton, with the hopes of a nation resting on their shoulders as they attempt to return from England with a record third title in their grasp.
The Springboks previously won the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and 2007, and with no country having yet won three World Cup titles (Australia and New Zealand are both on two), history could be made at the end of this flagship tournament.
As the match against the Japanese approaches, AFKSports reveals 12 facts about the Springboks’ opening encounter on Saturday evening.
Sources: SARU, SuperSport.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is relying on experience in this first match against the Japanese, picking a team with serious pedigree. The starting 15 contains a combined total of 880 test caps, which is more than the previous most experienced side (836 caps), which took on Australia in a World Cup encounter in Wellington, New Zealand in 2011.
Springbok Rugby history has never seen a clash between South Africa Japan in a test match, so the opening match for these two sides will have added significance as it will add a further chapter to the history books for both nations. Japan have qualified for all previous tournaments since 1987, while South Africa’s inaugural tournament was in 1995, once they were readmitted to sport globally following the removal of sanctions due to apartheid.
South Africa’s Springboks have played in 29 Rugby World Cup matches, with 25 wins achieved by the team for a win percentage of 86.2%. This is the highest winning percentage out of all 20 teams involved in this competition in England. In the previous seven tournaments Japan have played 24 matches at with only one win to their name when they beat Zimbabwe in 1991, while they also managed two draws.
Lood de Jager, Zane Kirchner, Jesse Kriel and Lwazi Mvovo are all set to play in their first ever Rugby World Cup match on Saturday against Japan in Brighton, as they are in the starting lineup. In addition to those four, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Handré Pollard and Adriaan Strauss may also make their World Cup debut if they get a chance to join the game from the bench.
It seems that Bryan Habana is destined to break a few records during the World Cup, with a few already possible in his first match this weekend. The speedster will extend his record of 109 caps as the most-capped Springbok wing when he takes to the field on Saturday. Also, should Habana score a try against Japan he will further his own record of 59 test tries for his country. He also has the Springbok record for most career tries in Rugby World Cups, at 10 tries, and will have a chance to extend that impressive tally.
The skipper will extend his record as the most capped centre for the Springboks with 92 caps in this position, while he will lead South Africa as captain for the 36th time. Along with Gary Teichmann, he will be the second most capped Springbok captain, while his appearance at the World Cup at all is a remarkable feat considering the extent of the knee injury he picked up representing South Africa against Wales in November last year. His recovery has been fantastic, and he has done incredibly well to be ready in time for this tournament.
Veteran flank Schalk Burger is his team’s most capped Springbok in his particular position, having appeared in 73 tests, while the Japan match will be his 80th for the Springboks. He is also the Springbok record holder for most tries in two positions, as a flank with 12 tries, and as a forward with 14. Burger will be aiming to add to these records in England, in what will be his last World Cup.
The incredibly successful front row combination of Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira will come together once again this weekend against Japan to star in a record 19th test starting line-up, ensuring that the South African scrum will have a familiar look to it and a strong set up. In addition to that front row record, Bismarck du Plessis could potentially add to his record for the most tries as a hooker, having scored nine in previous tests.
In previous Springbok tests brothers Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis have played together on many occasions, having registered 46 test matches where they were both representing South Africa. In addition to this interesting record which is very rare, Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira will play in their 37th match as starting 15 props when the Springboks take on Japan.
The Rugby World Cup match on Saturday between South Africa and Japan will be held at the Brighton Community Stadium, which was constructed at a cost of $143 million. The Stadium was officially opened on 30 July, 2011 and has a capacity of 30,750 seats, all of which will no doubt be packed with rugby fans supporting the Springboks and the Japanese.
The referee for Saturday’s game is Frenchman Jerome Garcès. It will be his sixth test match involving the Springboks. Looking at the five previous times that the ref has been in charge of a game involving South Africa, the country won three and lost two. His last involvement with the Springboks came as recently as July 2015, when South Africa lost 20-27 to the All Blacks of New Zealand in Johannesburg.
The side selected by Meyer is of a high calibre, and there will be great expectation on the team to do well in England. The below is the starting lineup and the replacements selected to take on the Japanese.
Starting 15: Zane Kirchner, Lwazi Mvovo, Jesse Kriel, Jean de Villiers (c), Bryan Habana, Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar, Schalk Burger, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw,Victor Matfield, Lood de Jager, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Fourie du Preez, Handré Pollard, JP Pietersen.
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