Boks name strong team to face ABs in World Cup opener

Handre Pollard tackles Beauden Barrett as he attempts to clear the ball. Photo: Getty Images
Handre Pollard tackles Beauden Barrett as he attempts to clear the ball in a match against the All Blacks in July. Photo: Getty Images
The Springboks have named an unchanged 23 for Saturday night's mouthwatering Rugby World Cup opener against the All Blacks in Yokohama.

The Boks, captained by loose forward Siya Kolisi, have named the same side as ran out against Japan in their warm-up clash - the first time they have named an unchanged team in 51 games, when they played identical teams against Wales and the All Blacks in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final and semifinal respectively.

They take on Steve Hansen's team in what many believe could be a rehearsal for the final on November 2, before also facing Italy, Namibia and Canada in Pool B.

Ever since South Africa were dealt a humiliating 57-0 thrashing in North Harbour in September 2017, the two sides have been almost impossible to separate. The All Blacks claimed a 25-24 victory in Cape Town a month after that thumping before South Africa hit back with a 36-34 triumph in Wellington last September.

A 32-30 All Blacks victory followed a month later, and the last game was the closest of the lot — a 16-all draw in July. 22 of South Africa's players from that clash in July are also playing in Saturday's opener.

Duane Vermeulen, who made his debut in 2012, will win his 50th cap in a starting XV with three other half-centurions (Willie le Roux, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth) while there are a further three on the bench (Beast Mtawarira, Francois Louw and Frans Steyn).

Only three of the starting XV have played fewer than 25 tests (Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi) while only replacement scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies was not capped before this season.

This is the fifth meeting between the teams at the Rugby World Cup. The Springboks won the 1995 final and 1999 bronze medal match while New Zealand took the 2003 quarter-final and 2015 semifinal.

The All Blacks name their 23 at 2.30pm (NZT) on Thursday.

The Springbok team to play New Zealand in Yokohama:
15. Willie le Roux
14. Cheslin Kolbe
13. Lukhanyo Am
12. Damian de Allende
11. Makazole Mapimpi
10. Handré Pollard
9. Faf de Klerk
8. Duane Vermeulen
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit
6. Siya Kolisi (captain)
5. Franco Mostert
4. Eben Etzebeth
3. Frans Malherbe
2. Malcolm Marx
1. Steven Kitshoff

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