South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has made 12 changes to his starting side to face Tonga in Stade de Marseille on Sunday 1 October, with fit-again fly-half Handre Pollard returning for his first game of Rugby World Cup 2023 in a completely overhauled backline, Deon Fourie starting his first test at hooker and Duan Vermuelen starting at openside flanker, with the versatile Grant Williams on the right-wing. 

1 Ox Nche 
2 Deon Fourie 
3 Vincent Koch 
4 Eben Etzebeth 
5 Marvin Orie
6 Siya Kolisi (c)
7 Duane Vermeulen
8 Jasper Wiese
9 Cobus Reinach
10 Handre Pollard
11 Makazole Mapimpi
12 Andre Esterhuizen
13 Canan Moodie
14 Grant Williams
15 Willie Le Roux

16 Marco van Staden
17 Steven Kitshoff
18 Trevor Nyakane 
19 Franco Mostert
20 Kwagga Smith
21 Jaden Hendrikse
22 Manie Libbok
23 Jesse Kriel

  • Handré Pollard will play his first match for South Africa since the 25-17 defeat by Australia in Adelaide in August 2022, having missed their last 16 tests. He comes into the side at the expense of Manie Libbok, who drops to the bench.
  • Pollard, 29, missed out on selection for the original RWC squad after picking up a calf injury in May but was called up as a replacement when hooker Malcolm Marx was injured.
  • The fly-half, who kicked 22 points in the Rugby World Cup 2019 final win over England and is South Africa’s record RWC points scorer with 162, made a 30-minute comeback appearance for Leicester Tigers against Sale on 15 September.
  • Dean Fourie, South Africa’s oldest test debutant last year against Wales just shy of his 36th birthday, makes his first test start at hooker. He lost his first throw of the tournament against Ireland but has an 89% success rate overall (8/9), as well as completing all 10 of his tackles. Replacement Marco van Staden, normally a back-row, will also play his first test at hooker.
  • Pollard’s inclusion is one of 12 changes of personnel to the Springboks’ starting line-up after their defeat by Ireland, with second-row Eben Etzebeth, captain Siya Kolisi and number eight Jasper Wiese the only players to retain their spots in the pack, while the whole backline has changed.
  • Duane Vermeulen, normally a number eight, starts at openside for the Springboks for the first time since November 2018 against France, and for only the third time in his 72-cap career. If South Africa beat Tonga, it will be the 50th win of his test career.