The selection of eight uncapped players and the return of a further six are the features of the Springbok squad named on Saturday for the five matches leading up to the Rugby World Cup later this season.
In addition to the 36 squad members, the national selectors have identified 13 players who are currently injured or will be in rehabilitation, but will form part of an extended squad for the matches against the World XV, Castle Lager Rugby Championship and the Test against Argentina in Buenos Aires.
The uncapped players in the squad are Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Rudy Paige, Faf de Klerk, Jesse Kriel, Franco Mostert and Lionel Mapoe.
Back in the Springbok fold after not featuring in any Springbok Tests last year, are Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn, Jaque Fourie, Heinrich Brüssow, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Heinke van der Merwe.
The currently injured players included in the squad are Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, Mapoe, Brüssow, Du Toit, Steyn, Coenie Oosthuizen, Lood de Jager, Duane Vermeulen, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, Jaque Fourie, Jan Serfontein and Fourie du Preez. The latter suffered a knee injury while training with his Japanese club earlier this week.
“It’s a long list of injured players but all of them are in the selection frame and we’d like to work with them to assist with their rehabilitation,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Some of them are close to full fitness and they will start training as soon as possible. We’ll assess and manage all the injured players individually with their return to play in mind and will do what is the best for the player and the team, even if it means that some of them play for their clubs or provinces if deemed necessary by our medical team and in consultation with their unions.
“Coenie Oosthuizen has been selected, but he has a neck injury which will rule him out of joining the squad immediately. We will wait for medical clarity to ensure we do what is best for Coenie before a decision is made on the way forward.
“Even though Jaque Fourie announced that he had retired from Test rugby late last year, we have had positive talks with him and his club, Kobe in Japan, and an agreement was reached that he will be available for one last season of Test rugby. As soon as he’s back to full fitness, we’ll consider him for selection.
“Jean de Villiers’ rehabilitation is going very well but his return to play will be strictly monitored before an announcement in this regard is made.”
Ntubeni (hooker), Paige (scrumhalf) and Mapoe (outside back) have been part of Springbok tour squads before, but this will be the first involvement at international level for De Klerk (scrumhalf), as well as Mostert (lock), Kitshoff and Koch (both props).
Meyer added that Vodacom Super Rugby form weighed heavily and as always there were a number of players who were desperately close to selection, but just missed out in the end.
“This is testament to the great depth we’ve managed to build in most positions over the last few years. It’s good to know we have players outside this squad who will be able to slot in should it be necessary,” said the Springbok coach.
“Scarra has been with us before and he has done a great job specifically in the scrums with Vincent, Steven and Frans Malherbe for the DHL Stormers this year.
“Lionel, Franco, Faf and Elton have been part of the ever-improving Emirates Lions, while Rudy and Jesse grabbed their opportunities for the Vodacom Bulls this season.
Meyer added that he was pleased to have Van der Merwe, Du Toit, Brüssow, Steyn and Fourie back with the Springboks.
“They are players with international experience and we know what they can do. It will be great to welcome them back into the Springbok fold and I know they will add value,” said the Springbok coach.
“It was great to see players such as Morné, Heinke, Bryan, Schalk Brits and Francois play in and win finals with their clubs in Europe.”
“We also talked to Andries Bekker as we wanted to consider him for selection, but upon a request from his club in Japan he was ultimately not picked for the squad at this stage. Hopefully he will be available at a later stage during the season.
“Flip van der Merwe was on our radar but ultimately he has decided to rule himself out of Springbok contention.”
Meyer said that he didn’t want to go into the 2015 Test season without exploring all options available to the Springboks.
“We will be guided by our medical team and specialists to ensure no stone is left unturned as we manage the injured players’ return to play. The players who have been included in the squad because of injuries to others must use this opportunity to break down the door to ensure they remain part of the squad as we look forward to the World Cup.
“As certain players regain fitness, others will be sent back to their provinces, but that doesn’t mean they are out of our thinking completely as the door to World Cup selection will never be fully closed. We talked to every player we thought could add value and considered every option available to us.
“The next five matches, before we finalise the squad for the Rugby World Cup, will be very important as we want to ensure the right 31 players are on the plane to England on September 11.
“We have done a lot of planning and research and are well-prepared for the season. We’ll use the matches against the World XV, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina to fine tune where necessary, but the next two months also provide the players with an opportunity to put themselves in contention to make the World Cup squad.”
The Springbok squad is (in alphabetical order):
Willem Alberts (Cell C Sharks), Loose forward, 32 Test caps
Schalk Brits (Saracens, England), Hooker, 7
Schalk Burger (DHL Stormers / Suntory, Japan), Loose forward, 75
Marcell Coetzee (Cell C Sharks), Loose forward, 26
Damian De Allende (DHL Stormers), Centre, 3
Faf de Klerk (Emirates Lions / Steval Pumas), Scrumhalf, 0
Bismarck du Plessis (Cell C Sharks), Hooker, 70
Jannie du Plessis (Cell C Sharks), Prop, 62
Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), Lock, 33
Elton Jantjies (Emirates Lions), Flyhalf, 2
Bryan Habana (Toulon, France), Wing, 106
Cornal Hendricks (Toyota Cheetahs), Wing, 11
Zane Kirchner (Leinster, Ireland), Wing / Fullback, 29 Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers), Prop, 0
Vincent Koch (DHL Stormers / Steval Pumas), Prop, 0
Siya Kolisi (DHL Stormers), Loose forward, 10
Jesse Kriel (Vodacom Bulls), Fullback, 0
Willie le Roux (Toyota Cheetahs), Fullback / Wing, 25
Francois Louw (Bath, England), Loose forward, 34
Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Prop, 4
Victor Matfield (Vodacom Bulls), Lock, 121
Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje (Toyota Cheetahs), Loose forward, 7
Franco Mostert (Emirates Lions), Lock, 0
Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), Prop, 64
Lwazi Mvovo (Cell C Sharks), Wing, 10
Scarra Ntubeni (DHL Stormers), Hooker, 0
Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls), Prop, 13
Rudy Paige (Vodacom Bulls), Scrumhalf, 0
Ruan Pienaar (Ulster, N Ireland), Scrumhalf, 80
JP Pietersen (Cell C Sharks), Centre / Wing, 59
Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls), Flyhalf, 9
Morné Steyn (Stade Francais, France), Flyhalf, 59
Adriaan Strauss (Vodacom Bulls), Hooker, 44
Heinke van der Merwe (Stade Francais, France), Prop, 4
Marcel van der Merwe (Vodacom Bulls), Prop, 4
Warren Whiteley (Emirates Lions), Loose forward, 2
Injured / Conditioning squad:
Heinrich Brüssow (Toyota Cheetahs / Docomo, Japan), Loose forward, 20
Lood de Jager (Toyota Cheetahs), Lock, 9
Jean de Villiers (DHL Stormers), Centre, 106
Fourie du Preez (Suntory, Japan), Scrumhalf, 70
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Cell C Sharks), Lock, 2
Jaque Fourie (Kobe, Japan), Centre, 72
Patrick Lambie (Cell C Sharks), Flyhalf / Fullback, 40
Lionel Mapoe (Emirates Lions), Centre, 0
Coenie Oosthuizen (Toyota Cheetahs), Prop, 21
Cobus Reinach (Cell C Sharks), Scrumhalf, 6
Jan Serfontein (Vodacom Bulls), Centre, 20
Frans Steyn (Cell C Sharks), Centre, 53
Duane Vermeulen (DHL Stormers), No 8, 29