Presles — South Africa have named half-backs Handre Pollard and Faf de Klerk as well as hooker Bongi Mbonambi in their starting XV for the Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand on Saturday.
Mbonambi makes the run-on team after being cleared by World Rugby on Thursday of having used a racial slur against England’s Tom Curry in last weekend’s semi-final.
“Having considered all the available evidence, including match footage, audio and evidence from both teams, the governing body has determined that there is insufficient evidence at this time to proceed with charges,” World Rugby said in a statement.
“Therefore, the matter is deemed closed unless additional evidence comes to light.”
Bok captain Siya Kolisi said he had been in touch with Curry after the England player came in for a torrent of abuse on social media following his allegation.
The most experienced #Springboks team ever will line up for the #RWC2023 Final against New Zealand in Paris on Saturday – more here: https://t.co/oySTFCRVOo 🇿🇦#StrongerTogether pic.twitter.com/JEeGNVyjI1
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 26, 2023
“I’ve spoken to him,” Kolisi said. “It’s the one part of the game we really don’t like.
“I feel for him and I feel for his family. I’ve let him know that we are supporting him.”
England’s RFU, who claimed Curry was also the victim of similar abuse from Mbonambi in a November 2022 Test, said it was “deeply disappointed” by the World Rugby ruling.
“The decision not to put the evidence before an Independent Disciplinary Panel has denied the disciplinary process the opportunity to hear Tom Curry’s voice and to independently assess his account of these serious events, together with the other available evidence,” it said.
South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber did not hold back when it came to selection as the Boks bid for a record fourth World Cup title, axing Cobus Reinach and Manie Libbok, who was hooked after 30 minutes of the semi-final, for De Klerk and Pollard.
The latter pair will start together for the 25th time, moving past Joost van der Westhuizen and Henry Honiball (24 Tests) to make them the most experienced halfbacks in Springbok history.
They are in a starting team which features 10 players who started in the World Cup final four years ago and is the most experienced in Springbok history with a combined total of 987 caps, eclipsing the record set the previous week against England of 895 Test caps.
“This is an experienced team with several players who played in the last Rugby World Cup final and who know exactly what to expect at Stade de France on Saturday and what it will take to retain the title,” said Nienaber.
“The players who will be playing in their first World Cup final have also proven their worth as warriors throughout this campaign and they are all ready for this massive occasion.”
What Rassie Erasmus said to the ‘bomb squad’ at half-time last Saturday versus England at the Rugby World Cup. #RWC2023 #ENGvRSA #NZLvRSA #Springboks pic.twitter.com/Iunfi0T9dN
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 26, 2023
Nienaber also opted for a replacements bench boasting seven forwards and just one back in veteran Willie Le Roux.
Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel start in midfield, with a back three of Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Damian Willemse.
Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Mbonambi will pack down in the front row, with locks Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert behind them, and the loose trio of Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen completing the forward pack.
The replacements’ bench features forwards Deon Fourie (hooker/flanker), Ox Nche and Trevor Nyakane (props), Jean Kleyn and RG Snyman (locks), Kwagga Smith and Jasper Wiese (loose forwards), and Le Roux.
“We’ve gone from a five-three bench split to a seven-one split to give us the best chance of being successful,” Nienaber said.
“We have plans in place to mitigate for injuries in the backline, but we’re excited about our plan and we embrace the risk.”
Nienaber confirmed that winger Kolbe would step up into a halfback role should it be needed.
South Africa (15-1)
Damian Willemse; Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, Damian De Allende, Cheslin Kolbe; Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (capt); Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Jean Kleyn, RG Snyman, Kwagga Smith, Jasper Wiese, Willie le Roux
Coach: Jacques Nienaber (RSA)
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