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South Africa vs Ireland: Four key head-to-heads to watch for

South Africa vs Ireland is quickly becoming one of the biggest rivalries in world rugby, and this weekend’s test will certainly be a feisty occasion. 

Young Leinster back Jamie Osbourn makes his debut at fullback, with James Lowe and Calvin Nash named on the wings. Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw reignite their partnership in midfield. Munster duo Craig Casey and Jack Crowley partner up in the halves.

It’s the all-Leinster trio of Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong in the front-row. Joe McCarthy starts at lock alongside Tadhg Beirne. Peter O’Mahony skippers the side from blindside flanker, with Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris completing the starting XV.

Conor Murray and Garry Ringrose are the headline names on the bench.

Rassie Erasmus has met fire with fire with his squad. The experienced Willie le Roux starts at fullback, with Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse named out wide. Jesse Kriel and Damien de Allende start in the centres. Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard start at 9 and 10 respectively.

Sharks duo Ox Nche and Bongi Mbonambi start in the front-row alongside Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert continue their fine second-row partnership. Captain Siya Kolisi is joined by Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kwagga Smith in the back-row.

Malcom Marx and RG Snyman are the headline names on the bench.

But with so many quality players across the park, who will win the game for their side? With that thought in mind, here are four key head-to-heads to watch out for in South Africa vs Ireland.

READ MORE: Rugby on TV: How to watch all the international tests this weekend

South Africa vs Ireland: Four key head-to-heads to watch for

Damien de Allende vs Bundee Aki

The clash at 12 looks to be a bruising encounter. Both Damien de Allende and Bundee Aki really pack a punch with ball-in-hand, and are vital in dragging their sides over the gainline. Both men also get heavily involved in defence too, so will likely see a lot of each other on Saturday evening.

Willie le Roux vs Jamie Osbourne

Polar opposites in terms of experience between the starting fullbacks. Springboks man Willie le Roux has been so pivotal to the success of his side in recent years, but in the absence of Damian Willamse he has big shoes to fill.

His opposite number Osbourne has had a brilliant season for Leinster filling in for Garry Ringrose in the centres, showing plenty of attacking threat and adding a refreshing new dynamic to their backline.

He too has a huge task in filling the void left by Hugo Keenan-who is competing at the Olympics-but he hasn’t featured at fullback for nearly two years either.

Back-row battle

Is this a cop out? The battle of the back-row is always a vital one in test rugby, but there are six quality operators who will all be looking to prove a point over their opposite man this Saturday.

The two captain’s (Kolisi and O’Mahony) both base their game on work rate in defence, the number sevens (du Toit and van der Flier) will both look to cause a nuisance at the breakdown and get heavily involved in most areas of the pitch.

The selection of Kwagga Smith at eight is very interesting, and points to South Africa looking to really target the breakdown, but Caelan Doris will also bring his typical physicality and overall quality across the park. This should be an intense battle on Saturday.

Ox Nche vs Andrew Porter

The scrum will probably define the outcome of the game, and these two players will likely have the final say in this. Ox Nche is quickly establishing himself as the best scrummager in the world, with his outright power and brutal strength. When he gets on top, South Africa typically win.

Porter is a similar sort of scrummager too, and when he does it at his very best he can really get the opposition walking.

How to watch South Africa vs Ireland on TV

South Africa vs Ireland: 4:00pm Sky Sports Main Event/Sky Sports Action

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