Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool B hopes on the line for U.S. against South Africa

LONDON - Men's Eagles scrum half Niku Kruger will make his Rugby World Cup debut Wednesday, Oct. 7, against South Africa in the USA's penultimate Pool B match of Rugby World Cup 2015 at The Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

Born in South Africa, Kruger, who turns 24 Friday, will also be making his first start for the Eagles, having just one international test appearance in the U.S.'s most recent defeat of border rival Canada. Pool B-topper South Africa defeated Scotland Saturday to move clear by one point, two weeks after opening the tournament with a loss to Japan, the Eagles' final opponent. Universal Sports will provide live broadcast coverage of Wednesday's match, which is set to kick off at noon ET.

Kruger also earned minutes in the Eagles' match against Harlequin F.C. at PPL Park in August as a half-time substitution. AJ MacGinty and Folau Niua sat behind the young Kutztown Golden Bear on that day, but Shalom Suniula will wear No. 10 against the Springboks. Head Coach Mike Tolkin will rest MacGinty for Sunday's match against Japan, while Mike Petri, who made his 56th international appearance in his country's second-half defeat to Scotland, will be available on the bench Wednesday.

"Niku will be thrilled to be in his first Rugby World Cup match and playing versus South Africa," Tolkin said. "He is a young man with a lot of potential and it is great that our young talent is getting an opportunity to play and gain valuable experience.

"Niku and Shalom are a dynamic pair who have been playing within our system all year and know it well."

The young pair at the half back positions will run around with a more experienced forward pack, led by Samu Manoa at the back of the scrum. The new Toulon recruit will captain the Eagles for the first time in his career in his 14th test, his third at Rugby World Cup.

"Samu has been very good all tournament and has earned the honor of leading the team Wednesday," Tolkin said.

The scrum will also be anchored by the grit and hard-nosed work ethic of Danny Barrett and John Quill, who will flank the Seattle Saracens combination of Louis Stanfill and Matt Trouville. Both locks will make their Rugby World Cup 2015 debuts Wednesday, while Stanfill will remember a South African matchup from Rugby World Cup 2007 in France, the first of his three World Cups.

Barrett and Quill have each earned minutes in the U.S.'s opening two matches in England, and will have fresh legs to held drive the front row of Chris Baumann, Olive Kilifi, and Phil Thiel into the pack of the Springboks. Baumann scored his first international try in a defeat to Samoa in Brighton last month, and a go-forward run from Thiel set up fellow front-rower Titi Lamositele for a try in the most recent match against Scotland.

"Overall, the back five is dynamic and they bring aggressiveness," Tolkin said. "While they have had less playing time than some of the others, they are an experienced group of players. Phil Thiel will lead well up front and also brings a good amount of experience."

Blaine Scully started on the wing against Scotland last week but moves back to the full back position Wednesday with Chris Wyles on the bench. Andrew Suniula made his first appearance in an Eagles jersey a year after the team last played South Africa, and will partner Folau Niua in the centers. With Zack Test and Brett Thompson on the wings, the starting XV for the Springboks match contains six players who have been on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in the past three seasons.

Unlike a rugby sevens tournament, in which teams' title credentials can fall and rise in the course of a single weekend, the Rugby World Cup's elongated schedule aimed at maximizing player safety has seen fascinating results. Though qualification for the knockout rounds from Pool B is still up for grabs for all five teams, the Eagles need two bonus-point victories - as well as a non-bonus-point loss for Scotland in its final matchup with Samoa - to have a shot at progressing to the quarterfinals.

Alternatively, with a third-place finish in Pool B after four matches, the U.S. could earn automatic qualification to Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.

"We envisioned every game being a battle in the Rugby World Cup, but also each game presented an opportunity for us and getting a third-place finish was certainly on the list of goals," Tolkin said. "Overall, however, we target each match and keep the focus on winning the battles within that match."

Match updates will be posted live on Twitter via USA Rugby's account (@USARugby) from the noon ET kickoff. Universal Sports will provide the live broadcast coverage, as well as an online live stream, of Wednesday's match.

Men's Eagles | v. South Africa

1. Olive Kilifi

2. Phil Thiel

3. Chris Baumann

4. Louis Stanfill

5. Matt Trouville

6. Danny Barrett

7. John Quill

8. Samu Manoa (C)

9. Niku Kruger

10. Shalom Suniula

11. Zack Test

12. Andrew Suniula

13. Folau Niua

14. Brett Thompson

15. Blaine Scully

Men's Eagles | Reserves

16. Joseph Taufete'e

17. Zach Fenoglio

18. Matekitonga Moeakiola

19. Titi Lamositele

20. Cameron Dolan

21. Al McFarland

22. Mike Petri

23. Chris Wyles

South Africa | v. USA

1. Tendai Mtawarira

2. Bismarck du Plessis

3. Frans Malherbe

4. Eben Etzebeth

5. Lodewyk de Jager

6. Francois Louw

7. Schalk Burger

8. Duane Vermeulen

9. Fourie du Preezb (C)

10. Handre Pollard

11. Lwazi Mvovo

12. Damian de Allende

13. Jesse Kriel

14. Bryan Habana

15. Willie le Roux

South Africa | Reserves

16. Schalk Brits

17. Trevor Nyakane

18. Coenie Oosthuizen

19. Pieter-Steph du Toit

20. Willem Alberts

21. Rudy Paige

22. Morne Steyn

23. Jan Serfontein

Men's Eagles | Rugby World Cup 2015

v. Samoa - L 25-16

v. Scotland - L 39-16

v. South Africa - Wednesday, Oct. 7 - noon ET

v. Japan - Sunday, Oct. 11 - 3 p.m. ET