South Africa’s De Klerk, Pollard to start RWC final


South Africa have named Handre Pollard and Faf de Klerk in the starting team for the Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand and have opted for a 7-1 split on the bench.

The bold selection call sees South Africa opt not to include a scrum-half on the bench as they load their replacements with forwards. The main call in the starting XV sees Pollard and De Klerk named at half-back with Manie Libbok and Cobus Reinach out of the matchday squad.

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Pollard, who scored 22 points when South Africa beat England 32-12 in the 2019 final in Japan, replaces Manie Libbok at flyhalf while De Klerk comes in at scrum-half in two changes from the line-up that started last Saturday’s narrow 16-15 semifinal success over England.

The 29-year-old Pollard was brought on for Libbok after 30 minutes of the semifinal in one of several drastic substitutions made by the South Africa coaches to try and get themselves back into a match where England were dominating.

In the end, Pollard proved the match winner again as he kicked over a 48 metre penalty to hand South Africa a place in the final.

South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber surprised with his choice of replacements, going with seven forwards and a single back for the third time in the last two months.

It means South Africa are gambling on fresh forward power winning them the game but risking having no cover should there be any injury among the backs.

It was a split first used for the 35-7 win over the All Blacks at Twickenham in their last warm-up test before the September start of the World Cup and again in the pool stage defeat to Ireland.

Fifteen of the 23 players named in South Africa’s match day squad played in the final four years ago, representing considerable experience. They have a combined tally of 987 caps, with the back three of Cheslin Kolbe (30 caps), Kurt-Lee Arendse (14) and Damian Willemse (38) the only players in the starting XV with fewer than 50 Test appearances.

Saturday’s final is the last for the 51-year-old Nienaber, who moves to Irish province Leinster after the tournament.

New Zealand, who like South Africa have won three previous World Cups, will name their team later on Thursday.

South Africa

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 (captain), 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.

Information from ESPN’s Tom Hamilton contributed to this report

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