De Klerk is one of 11 players to retain their starting places from the team which recorded a record victory against New Zealand two weeks ago, as Bok coach Jacques Nienaber tweaked the selection for a pivotal match in what has been dubbed “the pool of death”.
Scotland are ranked fifth in the world, the Boks number two and pool rivals, Ireland, number one. Only two teams can qualify for the quarter-finals while Tonga and Romania lie in wait for the unsuspecting.
There is only one change in the Springbok starting pack at No 8, where Jasper Wiese takes over from Duane Vermeulen, who moves to the bench, while the changes in the backline see Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel unite in a midfield pairing, and Cheslin Kolbe returns as a left wing in place of Makazole Mapimpi.
Two players, utility back Canan Moodie and lock Jean Kleyn, were not considered for selection due to hamstring and knee niggles respectively.
Nienaber opted for a six-two split in favour of the forwards on the replacements’ bench with Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane (both props), RG Snyman (lock), Marco van Staden (flanker) and Vermeulen named as the impact forwards, while Grant Williams and Willie le Roux provide backline cover.
“We are pleased with the squad depth we have built in the last few months, and we believe this group of players strikes the right balance to achieve the result we need against Scotland,” said Nienaber.
“We are very excited about this occasion. We’ve been building for this World Cup for the last four years and we are thrilled to get our campaign started.
“We’ve been working hard in the last few weeks to make sure we are as prepared as possible going into this match and we are fully aware of the challenge that awaits us.”
Nienaber commended De Klerk for reaching a significant career milestone: “Earning 50 Test caps is a massive achievement and to mark that feat in the opening game of the Rugby World Cup makes it very special.
“Faf has been a key member of our team for a few years, so we are delighted for him. Needless to say, we’re all focused on making sure it’s a memorable occasion for him and the rest of us.”
Nienaber said he expected a close tussle against Scotland and that it was important for the team to find their rhythm quickly.
“Scotland are a quality team with a strong pack and skilful backs, and they play with a lot of intensity, so we need to be sharp on attack and defence on Sunday,” he said.
“They have proved in the last few seasons that they can beat any team, and with this being the opening game of the World Cup for both sides, they will be equally as charged up as us for the match.”
The Springboks have only played Scotland twice since Nienaber and director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, took over the coaching reins in 2018 – a 26-20 victory in 2018 and a 30-15 win in 2021, both in Edinburgh.
The match kicks off at 17h45 and is live on SuperSport.
Springbok team to face Scotland in Marseille:
15 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 33 caps, 41 points (3t, 4c, 4pg, 2dg)
14 – Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls) – 10 caps, 55 points (11t)
13 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) – 62 caps, 70 points (14t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 73 caps, 50 points (10t)
11 – Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath) – 26 caps, 81 points (12t, 3c, 5pg)
10 – Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers) – 9 caps, 65 points (1t, 21c, 6pg)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles) – 49 caps, 44 points (5t, 2c, 5pg)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 23 caps, 5 points (1t)
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 71 caps, 35 points (7t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Racing 92) – 77 caps, 50 points (10t)
5 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 67 caps, 15 points (3t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 113 caps, 25 points (5t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 63 caps, 5 points (1t)
2 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 63 caps, 85 points (17t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (Ulster) – 76 caps, 10 points (2t)
16 – Bongi Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 62 caps, 65 points (13t)
17 – Ox Nche (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 21 caps, 0 points
18 – Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92) – 62 caps, 5 points (1t)
19 – RG Snyman (Munster) – 28 caps, 5 points (1t)
20 – Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls) – 14 caps, 0 points
21 – Duane Vermeulen (SA Rugby) – 70 caps, 15 points (3t)
22 – Grant Williams (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 5 caps, 0 points
23 – Willie le Roux (Vodacom Bulls) – 87 caps, 65 points (13t)
Stats and facts:
Springbok record against Scotland:
Played 28, Won 23, Lost 5. Points for: 742, Points against: 321. Tries scored: 90, Tries conceded: 32. Highest score 68, Biggest win 58 points, Average score: 26-11. Win %: 82.1%.
- South Africa and Scotland have faced each other twice before at Rugby World Cups – in 1999, the Boks won by 46-29 in Edinburgh, and in 2015 the Boks won by 34-16 in Newcastle.
- Faf de Klerk will run out for his 50th Test for the Boks.
- Malcolm Marx’s try against New Zealand at Twickenham on 25 August moved him to the top of the list for tries scored by Springbok forwards in Tests on 17, one more than Schalk Burger’s 16.
- Every player in the starting team has scored a Test try for the Springboks.
- Sunday’s Test will be the Springboks’ fourth in Marseille – they have won one and lost two at the venue.
- The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 815.
- There are 262 caps in the backline, with 553 caps among the forwards. On the bench there are a further 349 caps.
- The average caps per player in the backline is 37, the forwards 69, while the players on the bench average 44.