Boks prefer Willemse over Le Roux for World Cup launch


South Africa have selected Damian Willemse at fullback and opted for a 6-2 split between forwards and backs on the bench for the opening game of their Rugby World Cup defence against Scotland in Marseille.

Willie le Roux, the long-time first-choice number 15 for the Springboks, is among the replacements with the versatile Willemse preferred against Scotland, who are likely to take the game to South Africa on Sunday with ball in hand.

Wingers Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe make up a pacey back three, and Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel are a change to the centre pairing from the side that thumped New Zealand by a record 35-7 in their final warm-up game in London.

Jasper Wiese takes over at No.8 from 37-year-old Duane Vermeulen, who drops to the bench, but the rest of the pack remains the same with the only backs among the replacements being half-back Grant Williams and Le Roux.

South Africa's backline suggests they will be looking to run the ball, with flyhalf Manie Libbok the conductor if they can get dominance from their forwards in the Pool B game.

"We believe this group of players strikes the right balance to achieve the result we need against Scotland," coach Jacques Nienaber said.

"We've been working hard in the last few weeks to make sure we are as prepared as possible going into this match and we are fully aware of the challenge that awaits us."

Much has been made of South Africa's preferred 6-2 split on the bench, which is intended to give them an "80-minute game" in the forward pack by bringing on players of equal quality to the starters with fresh legs in the second half.

"Scotland are a quality team with a strong pack and skilful backs, and they play with a lot of intensity, so we need to be sharp on attack and defence on Sunday," said Nienaber.

South Africa team:

Damian Willemse, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe, Manie Libbok, Faf de Klerk, Jasper Wiese, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (capt), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman, Marco van Staden, Duane Vermeulen, Grant Williams, Willie le Roux.