Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Springboks v Ireland: Three key match-ups in Paris blockbuster

Although it is going to take a team effort to get the win, a number of key battles are set to be waged across the pitch.

The top two teams in world rugby, Ireland and the Springboks, go head to head in a massive Rugby World Cup pool match at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis on Saturday night (kick-off 9pm).

Both sides have gotten off to strong starts in the tournament with two wins under their belts and a third this weekend could see one of them qualify for the quarterfinals.

ALSO READ: Mind games in full force as Springboks target Ireland

Although it is going to take a team effort to get the win, a number of key battles are set to be waged across the pitch that could help decide the match:

Manie Libbok v Johnny Sexton

The battle of the flyhalves is set to be an intense one as the Boks’ relatively inexperienced Manie Libbok fronts up against the vastly experienced Irish captain Johnny Sexton. The 26-year-old Libbok only made his Bok Test debut late last year and has since made 10 appearances scoring 71 points for the national side.

The 38-year-old Sexton by contrast has amassed 115 international appearances and scored an Irish record 1090 points, with him on a high after passing Ronan O’Gara’s previous Irish points record in their win over Tonga last weekend.

Libbok also now has the added pressure of Bok stalwart Handre Pollard breathing down his neck after he was recalled to the Bok squad as injury replacement for Malcolm Marx. So Libbok will be desperate to put in a big performance, while the wily Sexton will probably be looking to exploit that in what should be a blockbuster game on Saturday.

Manie Libbok
Manie Libbok practices his kicking. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Jasper Wiese v Caelan Doris

Springbok eighthman Jasper Wiese has plenty to play for in his side’s huge pool clash against Ireland and he will be fronting up against rising Irish star Caelan Doris at the back of the scrum. Wiese enjoyed a massive 2022 international season where he established himself as the Boks’ starting eighthman ahead of the experienced Duane Vermeulen, however so far this year he has yet to reach those heights.

Vermeulen has in fact arguably overshadowed him so far this season and it was a surprise that he was named ahead of him for the opening match against Scotland and the Ireland match, so he has a lot to prove in a big game this weekend.

Doris has seen his star rise considerably over the past two seasons and he has become an integral part of a dangerous loose trio featuring 2022 World Rugby player of the year Josh van der Flier and the experienced Peter O’Mahoney.

Jasper Wiese
Jasper Wiese is set for the biggest game of his life against Ireland. Picture: Hans van der Valk/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Steven Kitshoff v Tadhg Furlong

The scrum battle is going to be an extremely key one in the clash between the Boks and Ireland and you could forgive Irish prop Tadhg Furlong if he was a little bit apprehensive heading into the match. Furlong has evolved into one of the world’s best tighthead props over the past few years but he is in for a long night on Saturday with him set to face two of the world’s best looseheads. He will first be fronting up against Steven Kitshoff in what should be a thoroughly entertaining battle.

Tadgh Furlong
Tadhg Furlong is in for a big scrum battle on Saturday. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Both props will be desperate to gain the upper hand in the first half in what could be a decisive contest in how the match pans out.

Kitshoff will be going all out from the word go as he will likely be replaced early in the second half by Ox Nche when the Boks unleash their famed ‘Bomb Squad.’ Nche is one of the strongest scrummagers in world rugby, so it will be interesting to see how long Furlong lasts in the second half before being replaced by Finlay Bealham.

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