The All Blacks have made one change to their starting linup for Sunday’s Rugby World Cup final against South Africa.
Brodie Retallick comes into the starting lineup after being named on the bench for the semifinal win over Argentina. Sam Whitelock moves to the bench. The only other change comes in the reserves with prop Nepo Laulala taking the place of Fletcher Newell.
With 1387 Test caps, it is the All Blacks’ most experienced team to play a Rugby World Cup final.
“It is an honour to fly our nation’s flag in the World Cup final once again,” said head coach Ian Foster. “We are proud of what we have achieved so far in this tournament, but the job is not done yet and we know full well the challenge that lies ahead.
“Of the seven World Cups that have been held outside of New Zealand, the All Blacks have only managed to win one. It goes to show just how hard it is to do but this group is determined to work hard for each other, as we have done all year.”
The most-capped player in the team’s history, Whitelock (152), will become the first men’s player in history to make three World Cup deciders. He is also one of six World Cup winners in the match day 23.
Last night the Springboks selected Handre Pollard to start at first five-eighth and packed their bench with forwards in a high-risk 7-1 split.
Pollard was promoted from the reserves along with halfback Faf de Klerk - the same halves combination that started in the Springboks’ victory in the final four years ago.
The big surprise from Springboks management Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber was the bench split, with lock Jean Kleyn and No. 8 Jasper Wiese added for an extended “bomb squad” of seven reserve forwards to face the resurgent All Blacks in the first World Cup final between the two fierce rivals since 1995.
South Africa experimented with a then-unprecedented 7-1 split in a warmup game against New Zealand ahead of the Rugby World Cup and won by a record 35-7 against a 14-man All Blacks.
Hooker Bongi Mbonambi was named in the starting lineup and cleared to play after World Rugby said there was insufficient evidence to support an allegation by England’s Tom Curry that Mbonambi directed a discriminatory remark at him during South Africa’s tense 16-15 win in the semifinals.
The investigation found Curry made the allegation that Mbonambi called him a “white c***” in “good faith” and there was no suggestion this was “deliberately false or malicious”. World Rugby also confirmed a second allegation was made by England this week in regards to last year’s match against the Springboks in November, during which there was an altercation between Curry and Mbonambi. However, having undertaken a detailed review of all available evidence, including audio and video footage of the match, and taking submissions from both teams, the investigation concluded there was not enough evidence to warrant disciplinary proceedings against Mbonambi.
Pollard replaced Manie Libbok at No. 10 for the final having recovered from injury and joined the squad midway through the World Cup. He was brought off the bench for Libbok and played a match-winning role in the quarter-final against France and semifinal against England. De Klerk starts ahead of Cobus Reinach.
South Africa kept four of the five of forwards that were on the bench for the semifinal, with prop Trevor Nyakane in for the injured Vincent Koch in a forced change. The Boks added Kleyn and Wiese. Willie le Roux is the only back in the reserves. That could leave South Africa exposed if they have backline injuries on Sunday at Stade de France as they seek back-to-back titles to match the feat of the All Blacks in 2011 and 2015.
Whoever wins will clinch a record fourth World Cup title.
“We’ve gone from a 5-3 bench split to a 7-1 split to give us the best chance of being successful,” Springboks coach Nienaber said. “We have plans in place to mitigate for injuries in the backline, but we’re excited about our plan and we embrace the risk.”
“We know we are in for a colossal battle. Every point and inch will count in this match and we know it will take another top-class effort to come out on top on Saturday.”
- Ethan de Groot, 2. Codie Taylor 3. Tyrel Lomax, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Scott Barrett, 6. Shannon Frizell, 7. Sam Cane (c), 8. Ardie Savea, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 11. Mark Tele’a, 12. Jordie Barrett, 13. Rieko Ioane, 14. Will Jordan, 15. Beauden Barrett.
Reserves: 16. Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17. Tamaiti Williams, 18. Nepo Laulala, 19. Sam Whitelock, 20. Dalton Papali’i, 21. Finlay Christie, 22. Damian McKenzie, 23. Anton Lienert-Brown.
- Steven Kitshoff 2. Mbongeni Mbonambi 3. Frans Malherbe 4. Eben Etzebeth 5. Franco Mostert 6. Siya Kolisi (c) 7. Pieter-Steph Du Toit 8. Duane Vermeulen 9. Faf de Klerk 10. Handre Pollard 11. Cheslin Kolbe 12. Damian de Allende 13. Jesse Kriel 14. Kurt-Lee Arendse 15. Damian Willemse.
Replacements: 16. Deon Fourie 17. Ox Nche 18. Trevor Nyakane 19. Jean Kleyn 20. RG Snyman 21. Kwagga Smith 22. Jasper Wiese 23. Willie Le Roux.
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