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Etzebeth set to return for Boks against Ireland, Moodie back on the wing?

The matchday squad is likely to be close to that which took on Scotland in the tournament opener.

Eben Etzebeth is expected to return to the Springbok team for their big Rugby World Cup match against Ireland in Paris on Saturday, while Manie Libbok is likely to play at flyhalf after being rested for last Sunday’s match against Romania.

Also, Handre Pollard, who joined the Boks on Monday after being called up to fill the place vacated by the injured Malcolm Marx, will probably sit out the clash completely as he gets back into the “full swing of things”, as coach Jacques Nienaber called it on Sunday when making the announcement.

The Boks travelled from Bordeaux to Paris on Monday, on their off day after their big win against Romania, and will return to the training field on Tuesday. Nienaber is also expected to name his matchday-23 for the Ireland match late on Tuesday.

Bench split

The squad is likely to be close to the one that did duty against Scotland in the World Cup opener, including Etzebeth who has seemingly recovered from a shoulder injury quicker than expected, but it will be interesting to see if Nienaber makes some strategic changes based on the opposition.

Will he opt for five, six or seven forwards on the bench, and will Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff be the starting props or will it be Trevor Nyakane and Ox Nche, who have been outstanding so far in France?

Also, will the Boks continue with Jasper Wiese at eighthman or go with Duane Vermeulen?

There will be a forced change at hooker with Marx out, so the big question is, will utility forwards Deon Fourie and Marco van Staden both make the matchday-23 and if they do, where does that leave Kwagga Smith?

Moodie selection

Canan Moodie played at centre against Romania. Picture: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

At the back, all four scrumhalves in the squad have a case to be in the 23, will Damian de Allende hang on to the No 12 jersey and who will Nienaber opt for on the wings and at fullback now that Canan Moodie is again fully fit?

Moodie would almost certainly have faced Scotland had he not picked up a niggle in the week prior to that match, his place going to Kurt-Lee Arendse, but he returned against Romania, at outside centre. Will he now take Arendse’s place, and will Nienaber again go for Damian Willemse at fullback or Willie le Roux?

“From a selection point of view, we’re open and honest with the players, they know what we’re thinking,” said Nienaber after the win against Romania, referring to the selection for thee Ireland match.

“It’s nice that there’s such good internal competition within this group. There’s not a big gap between the players.”

The Boks have yet to make an announcement about the well-being of prop Vincent Koch, who pulled out of the match against Romania minutes before the kick off.

“Vincent hobbled in the warm-up. I think it’s his knee. I don’t have an idea how bad it is,” said Nienaber late Sunday.

Thomas du Toit, who replaced Nyakane during the 2019 tournament in Japan, and Gerhard Steenekamp are on the official standby list should Koch’s injury be serious enough to rule him out of the current tournament.

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