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Bok scrumhalf Grant Williams at Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France, last Saturday. Picture: FRANCO ARLAND/QUALITY SPORT IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES
Bok scrumhalf Grant Williams at Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France, last Saturday. Picture: FRANCO ARLAND/QUALITY SPORT IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

The Springboks will take on Romania on Sunday dressed to the nines, though their jersey this time isn't part of the discourse.

They will play their Rugby World Cup Pool B match against Romania in Bordeaux with all four of their scrumhalves in the match squad of 23. Grant Williams will start on the right wing, Cobus Reinach at scrumhalf, Faf de Klerk will be flyhalf cover on the bench, while Jaden Hendrikse will be the backup scrumhalf.

The Boks continue to push the envelope and this week it will be their deployment of four scrumhalves that will have tongues wagging. In some ways they are going Old School on Romania.

People probably wondered why we took four scrumhalves, but when you look at the versatility in those scrumhalves, that is probably what we saw. Grant played his school career on the wing and in the last couple of games for Paarl Gym he actually went to nine,” said Bok coach Jacques Nienaber.

A guy like Cobus can help us out on the wing as well, as he did against New Zealand. Faf — the majority of his school career he played flyhalf. He also played flyhalf for the Lions and for Sale Sharks.

The key thing about this game is we can actually give Faf a run at 10. I’m not being disrespectful to Romania at all,” Nienaber said about their first-choice scrumhalf and their third-choice flyhalf.

Though they are nines they have played in different positions and that is nice for us, the versatility we get out of them.”

Bongi Mbonambi takes over as captain from Siya Kolisi in the side that shows 14 changes to the starting team that ran out against Scotland last Sunday. Only Damian Willemse has retained his place, though he moves from fullback to flyhalf. The last time he started at flyhalf the Boks suffered a 35-20 defeat against New Zealand in Auckland.

In 2022 he started six games in a row at flyhalf with the only defeats coming against Ireland and France.

Canan Moodie is back in the No 13 jersey after missing out on selection last week due to injury. The Boks hope he can continue the form he showed against New Zealand in London in August. His midfield partnership with André Esterhuizen will be keenly observed.

The team see tighthead prop Vincent Koch make his first start since the 2019 RWC when he played against Canada in Kobe. He has since had 28 consecutive matches off the bench.  “For all of us it is an opportunity,” said Koch.

“This week is our turn. We don’t play for ourselves but deliver a performance that is best for the team. If that is good enough, the coaches will select the best players for the next game. I want to contribute and make the country proud.”

It is one of the least experienced Springbok starting teams assembled over the last two years. Over the last two seasons only the team that ran out in Buenos Aires earlier in 2023, and the one that lost to Wales in Bloemfontein in 2022, had fewer caps.

Deon Fourie is on the bench as cover for Mbonambi while Marco van Staden, who starts on the flank, has been training at hooker in the event of further orthopaedic calamity befalling the Boks.

Marco was marked on our play sheet last month as a backup hooker,” Nienaber said. “Even from our alignment camps he got used to throwing and participated in the scrumming and lineout sessions as a backup to us.”

The Boks this week will go with a more traditional five/three split on the bench. The last time they did so they beat Argentina by one point at Ellis Park in July.

Springbok team to play Romania — Willie le Roux; Grant Williams, Canan Moodie, André Esterhuizen, Makazole Mapimpi; Damian Willemse, Cobus Reinach; Duane Vermeulen, Kwagga Smit, Marco van Staden; Marvin Orie, Jean Kleyn; Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche.

Replacements: Deon Fourie, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman, Jasper Wiese; Jaden Hendrikse, Faf de Klerk, Jesse Kriel.

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