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Experience could prove key to Springboks hopes

By Gavin Mairs

South Africa have named an unchanged starting XV for tomorrow night's World Cup final.

In sharp contrast to England's line-up, which has almost come together by chance and certainly not design, the majority of the Springboks side have been ever present for at least two seasons.

That continuity in selection could prove key in the white heat of the final, with South Africa's starting line-up boasting a combined total of 668 caps, the most experienced 'Boks side to ever take the field.

There are just two changes from the side that routed England 36-0 in the pool stages, with Schalk Burger, who was suspended for that game, and CJ van der Linde, who has replaced the injured BJ Botha, back in the side.

Scrum-half Fourie du Preez, who has been one of the players of the tournament, believes that encounter will have little bearing on tomorrow night's showdown.

"We've maybe got a little bit of confidence, knowing we can beat them, but it's a new game," he said. "So much has changed in their team.

"Six weeks ago, not in my wildest dreams would I have thought both of our teams would have made it. All credit to them, they've shown a lot of character coming back.

"Jonny Wilkinson has given the team a lot of confidence and their defence is good. It's a final, it's a pressure game, so it will be a close one this time."

Coach Jake White has made just one change to the replacements bench, with flanker Wikus van Heerden returning at the expense of former captain Bob Skinstad.

Meanwhile there will be an Irish representation in the final, with Leinster referee Alain Rollan officiating the showdown.

The 41-year-old Dubliner, who refereed England's defeat of Australia in the quarter-final, only became a ref by chance when he was thrown a watch and a whistle when the regular referee failed to show up for a low profile match in Blackrock.

The former Leinster and Ireland scrum-half began refereeing seriously in 1998 and three years later was rewarded with his first Test appointment, overseeing Wales' 81-9 defeat of Romania at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

He went on to referee Scotland and France in the Six Nations in 2002 before controlling four fixtures at World Cup 2003, including the quarter-final between England and Wales.

Rolland played 40 times for Leinster, and made the first of his three international appearances in a 20-18 win over Argentina in 1990. He gained further caps as a replacement against Italy in 1994 and the USA in 1995.

Rolland will have the experienced pair of France's Joel Jutge and New Zealander Paul Honiss as his touch judges.

SOUTH AFRICA: P Montgomery (Natal Sharks); JP Pietersen (Natal Sharks), J Fourie (Golden Lions), F Steyn (Natal Sharks), B Habana (Blue Bulls); B James (Natal Sharks), F du Preez (Blue Bulls); O du Randt (Free State), J Smit (Natal Sharks, capt), CJ van der Linde (Free State), B Botha (Blue Bulls), V Matfield (Blue Bulls), S Burger (Western Province), J Smith (Free State), D Rossouw (Blue Bulls). Replacements: B du Plessis (Natal Sharks), J du Plessis (Free State), J Muller (Natal Sharks), W van Heerden (Blue Bulls), R Pienaar (Natal Sharks), A Pretorius (Golden Lions), W Olivier (Blue Bulls).

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