Heavy win a must for Springboks over Romania in Pool where points difference will be decisive

Heavy win a must for Springboks over Romania in Pool where points difference will be decisive
The Springboks face Romania this weekend with a focus on points haed of their encounter with Ireland. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Boks must secure maximum log points over Romania to ensure they have a big positive points difference going into next week’s Ireland showdown.

Maybe it’s a good omen, maybe it’s not, but the one and only time the Springboks have played against Romania, was in a Rugby World Cup, and they went on to win the title.

That was of course, in 1995 on home soil, when the Bok ‘B’ team laboured to a 21-8 win over the eastern Europeans, just days after stunning the rugby world with a 27-18 victory over defending champions Australia in the tournament opener.

This time around the Boks come into the match after an 18-3 win over Scotland in a steamy Marseille. Romania limp to the match after being hammered 82-8 by Ireland in Bordeaux — the venue for this Sunday’s game.

There is an obvious gulf in class between the sides, and despite a difficult week, which saw a tournament-ending knee injury to star hooker Malcolm Marx and a shoulder concern for Eben Etzebeth, the Boks should win comfortably. But they can’t take anything for granted.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Marx, Etzebeth injuries may force tactical rethink ahead of Ireland showdown 

Uruguay, who battled all the way against France before losing 27-12 in Lille on Thursday night, did send a helpful reminder to all top teams that complacency is dangerous.

Romania have nothing to lose and will play without pressure or expectation.

Bongi Mbonambi, Springboks

Bongi Mbonambi will run out for the Springboks against Romania this weekend. (Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Dealing with Marx blow

The Boks have also been managing and processing Marx’s loss, which no matter how much positivity they project publicly, has hurt. And it could be a distraction as well.

Coach Jacques Nienaber revealed the extent of the setback on a human level.

“It’s a blow (losing Marx) on various levels,” Nienaber said.

“When we left Toulon to come to Bordeaux we were all sad. Rugby players work incredibly hard for four years to come to a World Cup, the players sacrifice a lot and their families sacrifice a lot, so for him to miss out on it for such a freak accident is a big blow.

“The second blow, every individual in our team adds something to the Boks, to the team, so we lose that. The typical thing is in the mornings I would see Malcolm with his daughter in his arms so I’m going to miss that and the chats that we had.

“And then thirdly you lose a quality rugby player as a team, but also the World Cup loses a quality rugby player, and every fan wants to see the best players play in a World Cup. But we’re not the first team that’s had this happen, and it’s not the last guy that the World Cup will lose to injury.”

But the coach has vowed to keep the side focused on the process and dealing with the threat of Romania. The rest will take care of itself later.

“When the injury happened it didn’t affect our team going into this match, at all,” Nienaber said. “So we will discuss it after the game.

“We’re fully focused on Romania because we should show them that respect, it’s only the second time we’ve played them in a World Cup so it’s a special game for us. We should also show that respect to the players that we selected to play in this match, so we’re not talking about anything other than Romania.”

Jacques Nienaber

Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber. (Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images)


There are 14 changes to the starting XV that comfortably dealt with Scotland and it presents a great opportunity for players to make a statement.

Nienaber has selected four scrumhalves in the 23 with Cobus Reinach and Jaden Hendrikse the designated halfbacks. Grant Williams will start at wing and Faf de Klerk is covering flyhalf.

Damian Willemse, normally fullback or centre these days, starts at flyhalf while Canan Moodie, usually a wing, makes his second appearance at outside centre.

It underlines the versatility of players in the Bok squad and hints at a more expansive gameplan against Romania where squeezing out as many points as possible from the fixture is vital.

Canan Moodie, Springboks

Canan Moodie of South Africa during the Rugby World Cup 2023 warm up match against New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium on 25 August, 2023 in London, England. (Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Moodie was magnificent against the All Blacks at Twickenham three weeks ago in his first Test outing in the No 13 jersey. He and Andre Esterhuizen are again paired in the midfield and the duo have the potential to wreak huge havoc if they receive quality front foot ball.

While it is expected that the Boks must score a truckload of points, last week’s win over Scotland underlined their defensive steel yet again.

They were the only team in round one not to concede a single point from an opposition entry into their own 22-metre area. Scotland had six entries into the Bok 22.

Defence, especially later in the tournament, will be crucial and while a match against Romania could disintegrate into a loose mess, the Boks have to be disciplined and keep structure.

As for Romania? They are under no illusions about the task they face, but they are ready to embrace the challenge.

“After world No 1 team Ireland, then South Africa, second in the world and world champions, you can only be enthusiastic,” coach Eugen Apjok said.

“It’s a great opportunity for us and for our youngsters who will learn.” DM

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Grant Williams, 13 Canan Moodie, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi (capt), 1 Ox Nche. Reserves: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Faf de Klerk, 23 Jesse Kriel

Romania: 15 Marius Simionescu, 14 Tevita Manumua, 13 Jason Tomane, 12 Taylor Gontineac, 11 Nicholas Onutu, 10 Hinckley Vaovasa, 9 Gabriel Rupanu, 8 Cristian Chirica (capt), 7 Vlad Neculau, 6 Andre Gorin, 5 Marius Iftimiciuc, 4 Adrian Motoc, 3 Alexandru Gordas, 2 Ovidiu Cojocaru, 1 Iulian Hartig.

Reserves: 16 Robert Irimescu, 17 Alexandru Savin, 18 Thomas Cretu, 19 Stefan Iancu, 20 Damian Stratila, 21 Cristi Bovoc, 22 Alin Conache, 23 Gabriel Pop.

Kick-off: 15:00 (SA times – Bordeaux)

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Boks must stick to their structures and play heads up rugby. There will be plenty of opportunities, especially with the backs we’ve got, so no need for 7s-style flingaboutery.

  • Ernest Lintnaar says:

    I see this game a “walk in the park”, however, having just said that…DISCIPLINE IS KEY, guys, and since YELLOW CARDS can turn RED, watch your step all the way. Yeah, it has come down to POINTS DIFFERENCE heading out of the group stages, so we need more than a truck load of points. The Springboks have “innovated” WORLD RUGBY from before the group stages, with 7-1 splits, robots and now 4 scrumhalves, just shows the depth that they have built over 4 years…I am excited to see what next, since Pollard is almost definitely being recalled into the squad, how he will fit in, is anybody’s guess

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