The Springboks have reverted to the starting XV and replacements that recorded a 49-3 victory over Italy a fortnight ago for the do-or-die Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Japan in Tokyo on Sunday.
It means 13 changes to the starting XV from the one which concluded the Boks’ pool campaign with a 66-7 demolition of Canada in Kobe last Tuesday.
Only Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende – who switches from outside centre back to the more familiar inside centre position – are retained from the Kobe XV.
They are joined in the line-up by the balance of the starting XV from the seven-try-to-nil overwhelming of Italy in what has become a familiar ‘senior’ line-up.
Front rankers Tendai Mtawarira and Bongi Mbonambi, as well as Lood de Jager retain their places in the starting line-up, having been elevated to the XV from the one which lost against New Zealand in the opening match of the tournament.
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.
The team to meet Japan contains five players with 50 or more caps in Willie le Roux, Duane Vermeulen (who wins 50th cap as a No 8 – a Springbok record), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth and centurion Mtawarira. There are another four players in the 40s in Kolisi, De Jager, De Allende and Handré Pollard.
Twelve of the starting XV – and 21 of the 23 – were in the team that overcame Japan six-tries-to-one (41-7) in Kumagaya, Japan, six weeks ago. The only absentees are Trevor Nyakane (prop) and Jesse Kriel (centre), who have both been invalided out of the tournament.
De Jager and prop Vincent Koch – who is on the bench – are the only two players who were not in the match 23 for the victory over Japan.
Erasmus again announced a six-two replacement split in favour of the forwards (rather than the traditional five-three), as was successfully deployed against the Azzurri.
The Springboks are aiming to reach the Rugby World Cup semi-finals for the fifth time in seven appearances while, for Japan, it is their first appearance in the play-off rounds at the ninth attempt.
The winner will play the victor in the France v Wales match in Yokohama on Sunday, 27 October.
South Africa’s quarter-final with Japan kicks off at 12h15 (SA time, 19h15 local) and is available on SuperSport channel 201 and SABC radio.
The Springbok team to play Japan in Tokyo on Sunday is: