South Africa hand Cheslin Kolbe full-back spot for first time against Ireland

Cheslin Kolbe will play his first Test at full-back when world champions South Africa take on Ireland on Saturday evening in Dublin.

Toulon star Kolbe, who normally operates on the wing, returns for his first international appearance since suffering a broken jaw in the Springboks’ series-clinching win over Wales in July.

Damian Willemse has been selected at fly-half, with head coach Jacques Nienaber also recalling Kurt-Lee Arendse on the right wing in the other change to the starting XV which began September’s Rugby Championship win over Argentina.

“We selected a team we believe contains the best combinations to counter the threats posed by Ireland,” Nienaber told the Springboks’ website.

“Damian has done well for us at fly-half, and he is continuing to grow as a player in that role, while we think Cheslin has the potential to add a new dimension to our game at full-back.

“He was sidelined for a while after breaking his jaw against Wales, but he has played four 80-minute matches for Toulon since returning to play, and we are confident that he will step up to the challenge.”

Kolbe, who will also provide fly-half cover, and Arendse join left wing Makazole Mapimpi in an exciting back three.

Damian Willemse will start for the Springboks at number 10
Damian Willemse will start for the Springboks at number 10 (David Davies/PA)

Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende are retained in midfield, with incoming number 10 Willemse replacing Frans Steyn to partner scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse.

Nienaber has named an unchanged forward pack for the clash with the world’s top-ranked team, who the Springboks have been drawn to face in the pool stage of next year’s World Cup in France.

His front row features props Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe and hooker Malcolm Marx, ahead of locks Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager, with captain Siya Kolisi and 2019 world player of the year Pieter-Steph Du Toit either side of Leicester’s Jasper Wiese in the back row.

“Ireland are the top-ranked team in the world currently and they’ve shown in the past that they can be a force to be reckoned with in Dublin,” said Nienaber.

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber, right, has one eye on next year's World Cup in France
South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber, right, has one eye on next year’s World Cup in France (Steve Haag/PA)

“Similarly to us, they will also view this as a vital clash with an eye on next year’s Rugby World Cup in France where we will cross paths in the pool stages.

“Obviously we are a long way out from the World Cup, but we have a limited number of matches left before the competition and the preparation doesn’t get better than playing a side we will face in the World Cup and the number one side in the world.”

South Africa team: C Kolbe (Toulon); K-L Arendse (Vodacom Bulls), J Kriel (Canon Eagles), D De Allende (Wild Knights), M Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks); D Willemse (DHL Stormers), J Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks); S Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), M Marx (Kubota Spears), F Malherbe (DHL Stormers), E Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks), L De Jager (Wild Knights), S Kolisi (Cell C Sharks, captain), P-S Du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Ja Wiese (Leicester Tigers).

Replacements: B Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks), O Nche (Cell C Sharks), V Koch (unattached), F Mostert (Honda Heat), D Fourie (DHL Stormers), K Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs), Faf De Klerk (Canon Eagles), Willie Le Roux (Toyota Verblitz).