Kolbe beefs up Springboks’ attack to face Japan

Rugby

Cheslin Kolbe has recovered from an ankle injury sustained against Italy to be named in South Africa’s starting XV for their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against tournament hosts Japan on Sunday.

The speedy right winger, who scored two tries against Italy, missed the Springboks’ final Pool B match against Canada as a precaution, to ensure he was ready for the quarter-finals.

Captain Siya Kolisi will start his third match in succession, and play his fifth game at the tournament, after he returned from an injury-ravaged domestic season in the Springboks’ tournament opener against the All Blacks.

Coach Rassie Erasmus had rotated his squad through the pool stage to ensure they all had game time before the quarterfinals, but settled on the same matchday squad that played against Italy.

The starting XV boasts 665 caps, the most in a Springbok team since the 2015 Rugby World Cup, when the squad included three Test centurions in Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana.

“When we set out on this campaign at the start of last season, one of the things we said we wanted to do was broaden and deepen the experience in the squad,” said Erasmus.

“We’re now in a position where everyone in the starting XV has had a proper taste of top-level Test rugby and we’ve got a strong spine of Test experience for these high-pressure matches.

“You need that experience when it comes to handling the pressure situations we will face on Sunday and I think we’ve achieved that now.”

This side beat Italy 49-3 a fortnight ago, and Erasmus is confident they’ll be able to pull off a similar if not better effort against Japan, and banish the ghosts of that shock loss to the Brave Blossoms in Brighton four years ago.

“We were satisfied with the performance against Italy and want to build on that,” added Erasmus.

“We have been improving and building momentum this season and we will be looking for further improvements this weekend.

“Japan are a well-coached team and have deservedly climbed to seventh in the world rankings. It’ll be a good challenge but we’re definitely up for it.”

Team: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-Cheslin Kolbe, 13-Lukhanyo Am, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Makazole Mapimpi, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Faf de Klerk, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Pieter Steph du Toit, 6-Siya Kolisi (captain), 5-Loedwyk De Jager, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Frans Malherbe, 2-Bongi Mbonambi, 1-Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16-Malcom Marx, 17-Steven Kitshoff, 18-Vincent Koch, 19-RG Snyman, 20-Franco Mostert, 21-Francois Louw, 22-Herschel Jantjies, 23-Frans Steyn. (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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