According to Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, a fully fit squad also played a role in the decision to stick with the players that brought tears to the French.
The Springbok brains trust had a lot of discussions about their best team for the World Cup semi-final against England tomorrow, and ultimately rewarded every player for their contributions in the last-eight encounter against France by making no changes for the crucial match.
It’s naturally a risk playing the same side two weekends in a row, especially if the recovery time between was not long enough after a bruising encounter against the hosts in Paris.
But, on the other hand, selection continuity gives a team and the players confidence that the coaching staff have faith in their ability to carry the squad (and South Africa) for another match.
And it can be the difference between a place in the final or a third-place play-off.
According to Bok coach Jacques Nienaber, a fully fit squad also played a role in the decision to stick with the players that brought tears to the French.
“We felt everybody who played last Sunday had a proper performance, individually and as a team, so looking at that, we decided to go for continuity,” Nienaber said yesterday at the team announcement for Saturday’s semi-final (9pm kickoff).
“If you go back to the start of 2022, when we started building the squad for the World Cup, we rotated almost every week, and that is very tough on the squad.
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 16, 2023
“We all know that if you have continued selection, your chances of performance are better because they (the players) build relationships with each other.
“The players had to work through that, so that is probably the resilience that got built within the squad, by not selecting the same team over and over.
“We built squad depth and gave exposure to a lot of players, and that is why we are in the position now where Andre Esterhuizen is on form, Damian de Allende is on form.
“We’ve been doing that since the start of 2022 for a reason.
“There are a lot of factors to success, but continuity in team selection builds momentum and confidence within the group. So, I think it is a little bit of both.”
But this is the most experienced Bok team, with a combined 895 Tests in history selected by Nienaber and his management.
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 19, 2023
Fifteen players who beat the English in the 2019 final in Japan will take them on again four years later.
It’s also only the second time Nienaber (with SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus) selected the same team in their 64 Tests to play since they took over in 2018.
The last time out was in the opening World Cup match against New Zealand in 2019.
Flyhalf Manie Libbok and wing Kurt-Lee Arendse are the only ones in the starting XV without a World Cup winners’ medal.
Libbok starts again with scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, indicating that the first half will be played with pace like the quarter-final.
Centres Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel pair up in midfield once more, although there was the temptation to bring in 2019 World Cup winner Lukhanyo Am and Canan Moodie.
Hard-running No.8 Jasper Wiese was another option for Duane Vermeulen at the back of the scrum.
“From their performances and build up during this competition you can see they are improving every single game” – more here: https://t.co/zSArhguUS6 🗣#Springboks #StrongerTogether #RWC2023 pic.twitter.com/w7AIXModll
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 19, 2023
“If we rotated and maybe started with Jasper or Andre Esterhuizen, they play against the English players a lot, and they were the top performers in the English league,” Nienaber said.
“So, you look at things like that, so the gap is very small (between those in the 23 and those missing out).
“Someone asked me the other day, ‘Are the guys who are not selected unlucky?’ No, they’re not unlucky.
“The guys who got selected are not lucky. They got selected because they deserved it.
“That is a positive about where we are in our squad.
“There are 33 players who are good enough and had enough exposure over the last 10 or 11 Tests that they will be match fit … they are all performing.”
15 Damian Willemse 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse 13 Jesse Kriel 12 Damian de Allende 11 Cheslin Kolbe 10 Manie Libbok 9 Cobus Reinach 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Siya Kolisi (captain) 5 Franco Mostert 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi 1 Steven Kitshoff
Bench: 16 Deon Fourie 17 Ox Nche 18 Vincent Koch 19 RG Snyman 20 Kwagga Smith 21 Faf de Klerk 22. Handré Pollard 23 Willie le Roux*