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.