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Rugby World Cup: Ulster's Ruan Pienaar gets big chance to shine for South Africa

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's Ruan Pienaar will start for South Africa in their World Cup opener against Japan on Saturday afternoon (4.45pm kick-off).

The scrum-half will win his 85th cap at the Amex Community Stadium in Brighton but will make what is only his second start at a World Cup having been understudy to Fourie Du Preez at two previous tournaments, including in the trophy-winning 2007 team.

The 31-year-old is one of two Irish-based players who will be in action with Leinster's Zane Kirchner also getting a start at full-back.

Former Munster centre Jean de Villiers has sufficiently recovered from a broken jaw to captain the team, and he is joined in midfield by the young Jesse Kriel. Toulon's Bryan Habana starts on one wing with Lwazi Mvovo on the other, and JP Pietersen is on the bench.

Pat Lambie, rather than Handre Pollard, will partner Pienaar at half-back.

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Up front, the Springboks have named their usual intimidating front row of Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and Jannie du Plessis with Lood de Jager and Victor Matfield in the engine room. Their back-row is comprised of Francois Louw, Willem Alberts and Schalk Burger.

It is a starting XV that has amassed 880 caps, the most in South Africa's Test history, but does contain some influential absentees. Duane Vermeulen, the No.8, has been allowed to continue his recovery from a neck injury while Eben Etzebeth has a calf problem. Full-back Willie Le Roux is also missing.

Speaking after the team announcement, head coach Heyneke Meyer said: "We play against big teams often, and with them it's mostly a case of you know what to expect but Japan will pose a different threat."

The Boks are heavily fancied to emerge as winners of Pool B and will also face Samoa, Scotland and USA in the first stage.

Belfast Telegraph


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