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Victor Matfield

Brussow, Schalla, Matfield back in Bok fold


World champion Springboks Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger as well as two former Blitzbok stars, Cornal Hendricks and S’bura Sithole, are included in a 36-man squad to attend a national training camp in Durban from 25 to 28 May, the South African Rugby Union announced on Monday.


Cell C Sharks back Sithole and Hendricks, the SA Sevens Player of the Year in 2013, are two of eight uncapped players in the squad. The others are the Toyota Cheetahs duo of Lood de Jager (lock) and Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje (loose forward); Marcel van der Merwe (prop) and Jacques du Plessis (flank/lock) of the Vodacom Bulls; Marnitz Boshoff (flyhalf) of the Lions and the DHL Stormers’ Damian De Allende (centre/wing).

They will join Matfield, Burger and Toyota Cheetahs flanker Heinrich Brüssow – who are back in the national set up for the first time since the last Rugby World Cup in 2011 – in a training squad that is missing a number of players due to injury.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said he was happy with the form of a number of the country’s top players and the uncapped players who have grabbed their chance this season, as well as the re-appearance from retirement and long-term injury of Matfield and Burger.

“Victor and Schalk have been out of rugby for a long time. They’ve really been in great form recently and the fact that they have not been with the Boks for more than two years, has made them hungry for Test rugby yet again,” said Meyer.

“It’s great to welcome them back into the Springbok fold and I know both of them can still add a lot of value to the team with the Rugby World Cup in 2015 looming.

“I’m also looking forward to working with Heinrich for the first time. He’s been playing very well for the Toyota Cheetahs since returning from injury and brings a lot of experience.

“However, the message to every player in this training squad is clear – everyone must accelerate in each area from the first moment we are together as a team and that inclusion in this squad is no guarantee of selection.”

Meyer said that injuries had been a concern but they had allowed other players to press their claims. A number of players in the squad are still nursing niggles or recently returned from long-term injuries.

“It looks like most of the guys are improving weekly and a few new players have put up their hands, which is good to see with the first match of the season, against the World XV in Cape Town, only a few weeks away.” said Meyer.

“It’s also very encouraging to see a bunch of new players emerging from Vodacom Super Rugby. This camp will provide us with a great opportunity to work with these players before the squad for the Castle Lager Incoming Series is finalised. I am looking forward to work with these players for the first time.

“This is a very big year for us and the players know they will have to step up a gear, be sharp and focused from the moment we get going in Durban. We have 14 very challenging matches ahead in 2014 and it’s imperative that we build on what was a good season last year.

“It’s important that we start building continuity because there are just 18 matches left until the Rugby World Cup starts. But it’s just as important to recognise continuous good form. We also have a number of players struggling with injury niggles or returning from injury which we have to assess.”

Players based in France, England and Ireland were not considered for this camp as most of them are still playing for their respective clubs.

However, the experienced Fourie du Preez, who played for the Springboks in 2013, has been invited to the camp in Durban as he is available for the Castle Lager Incoming Series against Wales and Scotland as well as against the Samsung-sponsored World XV.

The players invited to the training camp will assemble in Durban on Sunday morning and will return to their franchises on Wednesday morning.

“We have a good working relationship with our local franchises and we have to thank them, as well as Suntory in Japan, for allowing their players to attend this camp,” said Meyer.

Players who were involved with the Springboks last year, but were not considered for selection because of medium to long-term injuries, are Scarra Ntubeni (foot), Chiliboy Ralepelle (knee), Frik Kirsten (neck), Pieter-Steph du Toit (knee), Franco van der Merwe (ankle), Arno Botha (knee), Pierre Spies (bicep), Louis Schreuder (hand), Pat Lambie (bicep), Gio Aplon (elbow) and Jaque Fourie, who could potentially miss the entire Test season because of an ankle injury.

The 36-man Springbok training squad is:

Forwards (20): Tendai Mtawarira (Cell C Sharks), Trevor Nyakane (Toyota Cheetahs), Marcel van der Merwe (Vodacom Bulls)*, Jannie du Plessis (Cell C Sharks), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Coenie Oosthuizen (Toyota Cheetahs), Bismarck du Plessis (Cell C Sharks), Adriaan Strauss (Toyota Cheetahs), Eben Etzebeth (DHL Stormers), Lood de Jager (Toyota Cheetahs)*, Victor Matfield (Vodacom Bulls), Flip van der Merwe (Vodacom Bulls), Heinrich Brüssow (Toyota Cheetahs), Marcell Coetzee (Cell C Sharks), Siya Kolisi (DHL Stormers), Willem Alberts (Cell C Sharks), Jacques du Plessis (Vodacom Bulls)*, Teboho Mohoje (Toyota Cheetahs)*, Duane Vermeulen (DHL Stormers), Schalk Burger (DHL Stormers).

Backs (16): Fourie du Preez (Suntory, Japan), Francois Hougaard (Vodacom Bulls), Johan Goosen (Toyota Cheetahs), Marnitz Boshoff (Lions)*, Jean de Villiers (DHL Stormers), Damian De Allende (DHL Stormers)*, Jan Serfontein (Vodacom Bulls), Juan de Jongh (DHL Stormers), JJ Engelbrecht (Vodacom Bulls), S’bura Sithole (Cell C Sharks)*, Frans Steyn (Cell C Sharks), Lwazi Mvovo (Cell C Sharks), Bjorn Basson (Vodacom Bulls), JP Pietersen (Cell C Sharks), Cornal Hendricks (Toyota Cheetahs)*, Willie le Roux (Toyota Cheetahs).


* – Uncapped at Test level

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Jim Tucker writes in The Couriermail that this feature clash against the Reds will be the South African World Cup champion’s final outing in Brisbane and never has he needed to lead the way more.

The Bulls are riding an indifferent 4-3 win-loss record into this match and have made several changes to re-energise the defence of their Super Rugby title.

“We know Brisbane is always a tough place to win and that we are under pressure,” the 105-Test lineout king said.

“I have won only once here (in 2004 at Ballymore) with the Bulls or Springboks but this is a good weekend to improve that.”

Reds coach Ewen McKenzie is wary of just that motivation and spark of fresh enthusiasm within the Bulls.

McKenzie has made just a single change to the starting side, reinstating Wallaby Saia Faingaa for last-start standout James Hanson.

“James is a player on the rise but Saia is an experienced Wallaby who has been in good form,” McKenzie said.

“We’re lucky to have two impact players doing well for us because both are integral at different stages of the match.”

Flanker Beau Robinson was rested from Wednesday’s training session because of a cold but was back with squad mates yesterday.

Mike Harris has retained his place in the centres with McKenzie again talking up the variety he offers as a second playmaker. It was a largely invisible role to many because flyhalf Quade Cooper ran the show in Cape Town during last weekend’s win over the Stormers.

Versatile back Ben Lucas has been returned to the bench after missing the two-game South African tour with a groin injury.

The presence of Will Chambers on the bench is another positive pointer that he is ready to be re-injected. He played a handful of minutes in Cape Town but he offers the best balance to the backline if he can be given time at outside centre.

Reds team (from fullback): Luke Morahan, Rod Davies, Anthony Faingaa, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Scott Higginbotham, Beau Robinson, Radike Samo, James Horwill (c), Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Saia Faingaa, Ben Daley.

Reserves: James Hanson, Greg Holmes, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Liam Gill, Leroy Houston, Ben Lucas, Will Chambers.

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