South Africa have had a week to stew on their defeat to Ireland and have changed things up for Sunday’s Pool B clash with Tonga.

Last Saturday’s contest at the Stade de France is already being discussed as one of the greatest Rugby World Cup matches ever.

And, although the Springboks came out on the wrong side of the result, there were obvious areas to improve on as the tournament goes on and they will not be too disheartened after also losing a group game on their way to victory in 2019.

Among them is their goal-kicking. Manie Libbock and Faf de Klerk missed four kicks between them against Ireland, leaving 11 points out on the field. Their shortcomings mean all eyes will be on recent call-up fly-half Handre Pollard as he looks to settle back into international rugby.

Finding his rhythm could prove a challenge, with Tonga’s trademark physicality often leaving them on the wrong side of the law in France.

‘Ikale Tahi can still qualify by winning their final two games with bonus points but need results elsewhere and as was the case against both Ireland and Scotland, could find their eagerness to impress costs them dear at the Stade Velodrome.

South Africa vs Tonga Betting Tips

  • South Africa to win by 36-40 points inclusive @ 11/2 
  • Willie le Roux anytime tryscorer @ 10/11

Team news

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has made 12 changes to his starting XV, with Pollard’s inclusion undoubtedly the headline.

The match in Marseille marks his first international outing since August 2022 and the decision to call him up, rather than a like-for-like replacement for hooker Malcolm Marx, means Deon Fourie makes his first Test start in the number two shirt, having primarily been selected as a back-row.

Duane Vermeulen wins his 50th cap at blindside flanker and is joined in the back-row by two of the three players retained in captain Siya Kolisi and number eight Jasper Wiese. The other one who keeps his place is lock Eben Etzebeth.

Semisi Paea starts at number eight for Tonga in place of the suspended Vaea Fifita.

There are also changes on both wings, with Fine Inisi and Anzelo Tuitavuki included in the XV.

South Africa to win by 36-40 points inclusive @ 11/2 

The pair have only met twice, most recently at the 2007 World Cup when the much-changed Springboks ran out the 30-25 victors in Lens.

Tonga were arguably more competitive then but the changes to the eligibility rules have allowed them to add experience to their squad. However, with experience comes age and the likes of Augustine Pulu and Malakai Fekitoa lack the zest that saw them become All Blacks.

In contrast, Pollard aside, the Boks are purring and backs Willie Le Roux, Grant Williams, Canan Moodie and Makazole Mapimpi will all be wounded by not being included against Ireland.

Le Roux, Williams and Mapimpi combined for six of South Africa’s 11 tries in the 76-0 romp over Romania. With Tonga losing 59-16 to Ireland and 45-17 to Scotland, somewhere roughly in the middle could be their deficit on Sunday.

Willie le Roux anytime tryscorer @ 10/11

Le Roux looks to have fallen behind Damien Willemse in the battle for the number 15 shirt but remains a quality operator.

After the seven-one bench split arguably failed against Ireland, he should be a regular among the replacements as the tournament continues.

He might be 34, but the former Wasps man retains a real style to his play, gliding around the field.

Le Roux also complements his team’s number 10s and often second guesses where Pollard wants to put the side, which should give him chances to shine out wide.

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